8 Health Benefits of Eating Foods with Protein
Studies show that eating a high-protein diet has a number of health benefits. Not only does it help you maintain and lose weight, but it also works to stabilize your blood sugar levels, improve your ability to learn and concentrate, reduce brain fog, boost your energy levels, support your muscles and bones, and support the absorption of important nutrients.
Many people make the mistake of trying diets that involve calorie counting and deprivation. On a high-protein diet you will feel completely satisfied after eating, and you won’t have to deal with the blood sugar highs and lows that lead to cravings and moodiness. The following are 8 health benefits of eating protein rich foods:
1. Boost Muscle Mass
Eating enough protein is necessary to build and maintain healthy muscle mass, while also supporting tendon, ligaments and other body tissue. Protein is important for bodybuilding, but it’s also necessary for developing leaner muscles as well. When your diet is lacking in amino acids, “muscle wasting” (or muscle atrophy) can take place when your muscle fibers are broken down to support your body’s energy needs.
Protein is especially important after exercise, since physical activity like strength training purposefully damages muscle tissues so they can repair and grow back stronger. For the process to happen effectively, you need some extra protein to help repair the damage. While protein alone won’t enhance athletic performance, research shows that eating protein before and after exercise helps increase muscle recovery, promotes muscle synthesis and serves as effective muscle ache treatment.
2. Help Manage Your Weight by Filling You Up
Although some research studies show conflicting results regarding high-protein diets versus low-protein diets for maintaining an ideal weight or losing weight fast, there’s plenty evidence that protein helps make you feel full and can prevent overeating. While dietary or lifestyle change must be personalized for weight loss to be effective, studies show that controlled calorie intake along with a moderately high protein diet can be an effective and practical weight-loss strategy. High-protein foods cause you to feel more satisfied than carbohydrates or fats, so they can prevent overeating and snacking. It’s usually much easier to overeat with carbohydrates, especially if they’re refined or sweetened, than it is to over eat healthy protein foods. Eating protein also creates a process in the body known as thermogenesis, which requires the body to expend more energy (calories) in order to digest food. Protein helps ward off muscle loss that can result from a low-calorie diet.
3. Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
Insulin is a hormone that’s required for carbohydrates, fat, and protein to be metabolized. However, carbohydrates require much more insulin than fat or protein does. The major determinate of blood sugar levels is the glycemic index response from the foods you eat. While eating high-carb and high-sugar foods results in fluctuations in blood sugar levels, eating protein does the opposite.
Eating foods with protein has a minimal effect on blood glucose levels and can slow down the absorption of sugar during a meal. This means a high-protein diet can help prevent spikes in blood glucose, which is especially important for preventing type 2 diabetes, balancing energy levels, and keeping your appetite and mood in check.
4. Improve Your Mood
Certain amino acids from protein foods are needed to balance hormones naturally, control your mood and act as a natural remedy for anxiety. Proteins help neurotransmitters function and synthesize hormones like dopamine and serotonin that calms us and keeps our outlook positive.
Many people who are lacking in key amino acids start experiencing weakness, moodiness, and increased anxiety or signs of depression for this reason. Because protein helps stabilize glucose in your blood, it also prevents mood changes, irritability and cravings that can occur due to fluctuating blood sugar levels.
5. Promote Healthy Brain Function and Learning
Proteins are needed to make enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters that are critical for cognitive function. Eating a healthy breakfast sets the tone for the day and prepares you to learn and remember information.
The brain requires a steady supply of amino acids in order to keep concentration, focus and energy levels up. Studies show that when amino acid deprivation takes place, learning and coordination suffers, but once all necessary amino acids are reintroduced into the diet, learning and motor skills improve.
6. Help Maintain Strong Bones
Many studies now show that a positive association exists between eating more foods with protein and better bone health. The effects of protein on bones also relate to the specific protein foods being eaten and intake of important bone-building nutrients like calcium and magnesium. A diet high in protein from whole, nutrient-rich foods can heal broken bones and prevent bone weakness, fractures, and even osteoporosis by increasing calcium absorption and helping with bone metabolism.
7. Protect Heart Health
Some studies show that an inverse relationship between protein intake and risk of heart disease has been observed in adults, as higher protein diets appear to one of the natural remedies for high blood pressure. Substituting carbohydrates with protein will result in lower LDL, “bad” cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Higher protein diets balance blood sugar and tend to help prevent other heart disease-related causes, including obesity and diabetes.
8. Slow Aging and Promote Longevity
One of the key roles of protein foods is helping the body synthesize glutathione, often called the “master antioxidant.” Glutathione is stored within our own cells and helps us detox and reduce carcinogens that age us. Animal and human studies both show that adequate protein intake is crucial for the maintenance of glutathione and helps the body stay in a state of balanced “homeostasis.” Glutathione deficiency contributes to oxidative stress, which plays a key role in age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, cancer and viral infections.
Research shows that a diet high in balanced amino acids from protein foods can help treat muscle loss due to aging (called sarcopenia). A diet that has adequate levels of protein helps slow the aging process by keeping muscle mass intact, supporting strong bones, and maintaining high cognitive and immune function. In the elderly, amino acid deficiencies can potentially lead to eye problems like cataracts, heart problems, muscle loss, weakness and mood changes.
As you age, your body is less capable of synthesizing amino acids on its own, which is one reason why the amount of muscle you have tends to decrease over the years while fat accumulates. This makes it even more important for you to eat plenty of protein-rich foods to support not only a healthy body weight, but to keep your memory sharp, energy up, and strength and balance in place.
As you can see there are many health benefits to having a diet that is protein rich. Some of the top foods high in protein include grass-fed beef, organic chicken, lentils, wild-caught salmon, black beans, eggs, yogurt, goat cheese, almonds and protein powder made from bone broth. For people who don’t eat animal products, there are plenty of plant-based protein options, including nuts, seeds, beans, leafy greens and grains like quinoa. As a general rule, eat 50 percent of your body weight in grams of protein per day. If you’re looking to burn fat, consume about 70 percent of your body weight in grams of protein. So get busy planning your meals with plenty of protein rich foods that will promote a healthy mind and body!