Welcome to Day One of Demystifying Protein in Seven Days! This happy little macronutrient is essential to a balanced diet and a healthy body. AND, with a little know-how, it's easy to get enough through plant-based sources. Check back now through Wednesday for info on what protein does for us and suggestions on how to work more plant proteins into your life! Onto Day One...
The human body is a pretty amazing thing! It produces many of the proteins we need to form the tissues and cells for survival – so why do we need to worry about how much we’re consuming in our food?
Proteins are made up of amino acids; in the amino acids family, there are nine ‘essential amino acids’ [that is, ones we don’t produce internally]. These are the ones we must consume some through food to ensure adequate regulation, maintenance, and function of our bodies. Protein directly affects the growth of hair, nails, and skin, as well as the development of muscle, bone, and blood tissues.
Half of the dietary protein we consume helps make enzymes: these enzymes permit basic functions like digestion, assimilation of nutrients, and communication throughout the nervous system.
In addition to animal products, proteins can be found in a number of different plant-based sources: beans, grains, nuts, and leafy greens are some of the best options. When we combine different proteins in a given meal, we increase the likelihood of ingesting complete proteins, as these assimilate altogether in the body.
Day One - Protein Suggestion
Beans – so much versatility in the legume family! Beans provide (on average) 10-20 grams of protein per cup, along with iron, B vitamins, and fiber. Soak beans before cooking to reduce cook-time and improve digestibility. If you're not accustomed to eating a lot of beans, it's great to start with smaller, easiest-to-digest varieties: adzuki beans, lentils, or white beans are good options. Toss in salad or a soup, or mash into a puree with your favourite spices for an all-star main dish!
Check back tomorrow for symptoms of too much or too-little protein consumption.