Here are why you need to eat protein food and what this does for your body:
What Is Protein?
Protein is one of a complex group of molecules that do all kinds of jobs in your body. They make up your hair, nails, bones, and muscles. Protein gives tissues and organs their shape and also helps them work the way they should. In short, protein is one of the building blocks that make you into who you are.
Protein isn’t your body’s first — or even second — choice for getting energy. That role is reserved for carbohydrates and fats. But when you’re running low on calories, or if you’re a serious athlete, thank protein for keeping you going past the point of normal energy stores.
You need protein to keep up the size and shape of your muscles. As you lose weight, protein prevents you from losing muscle at the same time. If you lift weights for strength, protein is the key to building more muscle.
Studies show that getting the right amount of protein in your diet improves your bone health. It lowers your chance of osteoporosis (bone loss) by helping you hold on to your bone density, and it helps prevent breaks as you age, too.
Boosts Your Immune System
Proteins are made of amino acids. These compounds help turn key players in your immune system — T cells, B cells, and antibodies — into germ fighters that spot and kill harmful cells that enter your body before they can start an infection.
Cravings are different than a true need for food. They come from your brain, not your stomach. Research shows that getting more protein can help curb these cravings, even late-night fridge raids.
A high enough level of protein in your diet boosts your metabolism (the rate at which your body uses calories). This means you burn more calories a day — even at rest — than you would on a lower-protein diet.
Studies on protein, specifically protein from plants, show that it can help lower blood pressure. It can also decrease your LDL or bad cholesterol levels, which lowers your risk of heart disease.
There’s a reason protein is called the building block of your body’s tissues and organs. It powers faster wound repair by reducing inflammation and creating new tissue at the site of the injury.
If you think of your blood stream as a canal, proteins are the cargo ships that carry vitamins, minerals, sugars, cholesterol, and oxygen through it and into cells and tissues that need them to work. Some proteins even store certain nutrients, like iron, so you have a backup supply when you need it.
Can You Get Too Much Protein?
A high-protein diet has clear benefits, but can too much harm your health? Yes, and the cost could be a higher risk of cancer, higher cholesterol, kidney stones, weight gain, and constipation. But many of these potential effects depend on the type of protein you’re getting and your overall diet. Ask your doctor or nutritionist what’s best for you.
What Are the Best Ways to Get It?
Protein comes in lots of different forms. Reach for healthy, low-fat sources. Steer clear of saturated fats and highly processed options. Try to eat it throughout the day instead of cramming it into one meal. Keep up your fruit and veggie portions to get plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.