Note from Joy: This is a great guest post because protein is an essential macronutrient that is often lacking (women specifically) in one's diet. Even if you do ensure protein at every meal and snack, variety is key! All too often you get stuck eating the same greek yogurt for breakfast every single day. While this might be delicious and a great source of protein, it can be a recipe for developing a food sensitivity.
In my profession I spend a lot of time teaching people the important of nutrition in relation to fitness and health goals. My last article actually focused on the top “core” nutrients for active people and I briefly touched on the importance of protein and the role it plays in supporting an active body. This time I want to dive a little deeper and examine the many options of where we can get our protein from, and which ones are the best to suit your individual needs and desires.
I think it’s best to start with a little review about protein and the many essential roles it plays in the maintenance and progress of our health.
Protein is made up of different combinations of amino acids, each having a specific role. When we digest protein the body breaks it down into amino acids and then reassembles those amino acids into new proteins to suit whatever needs must be met.
The most common use for protein is the maintenance of muscle tissue but we also use protein to create; healthy skin and hair cells, maintain joint health, ensure the proper function of enzymes, create the structure of hormones and antibodies, and to transport important molecules like oxygen around the body.
It fair to say that we need protein to achieve optimum health, but the question is where do we get our sources of protein from? Luckily nature provides us multiple sources to suit every lifestyle and personal choice. Let’s explore some options of supplemental and food based proteins and why they are potentially good choices.
- Sprouted Brown Rice: this is a popular choice for many plant-based protein powders due to its ease of digestibility, good amino acid profile, and typically low allergenic potential for people.
- Split Pea Protein: like sprouted rice, split pea is another popular choice due to its ease of digestibility and complete amino acid profile meaning it contains all essential amino acids.
- Hemp: hemp protein offers a complete protein profile like the other two plant-based options, but adds the benefit of a high fiber content which is very beneficial for digestive health, and essential fatty acids for building healthy cells.
- Whey Protein: this choice might shock some holistically-minded people, but hear me out. The choice of consuming a food usually comes down to health benefit, enjoyment, and if you can tolerate that food. For those who don’t have an allergy to whey, it’s actually the highest quality protein the body can absorb. It also offers potential health benefits of strengthening the immune system and typically tastes the best of all powders. Look for cross-flow micro filtration New Zealand whey with stevia as the sweetener of choice to ensure a quality product.
- Legumes: these nutrient-dense foods offer a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. When they are sprouted this becomes even more true plus easier to digest.
- Nuts & Seeds: much like legumes they are not a complete protein unless they are combined with legumes or grains, but they do have a relatively high concentration of protein. They are also rich in minerals and healthy fats.
- Eggs: natures little multi-vitamins are so nutritionally dense they offer one of the highest quality sources of protein around that is typically easy to digest unless they cause allergies. They are also full of vitamins and minerals providing you eat the yolk.
- Fish: this is another easy to digest high quality protein that those who live a "pescatarian" lifestyle can incorporate. Fish is also rich in the essential fats EPA and DHA to help manage inflammation and brain health. Learn more about farmed vs. wild in Joy's article here.
- Chicken/Turkey: these are some of the highest quality animal sources of protein with extremely low levels of fat if you choose the leaner sections of the animal. Due to its protein density a typical serving of 6oz will be enough to supply up to 25 grams of protein. Make sure your meat is raised without the use of; antibiotics, hormones, and cages which give the animals the healthy lifestyle they need.
- Grass-Fed Beef: Red meat is another area of controversy due to the many warnings that are supposedly attached to it. I personally feel that we have taken some anecdotal evidence and applied it wrongly to ALL red meat. When raised under the right conditions, beef can provide many health benefits. Quality protein, iron, vitamin b12, and dose of healthy fats providing it’s grass-fed.
One of the simplest ways to get protein into your diet fast is by starting your day with a smoothie! Joy loves smoothies and has recipes in her book JOYOUS HEALTH and many here.
Have a great day!