Protein : To Optimize Your Brain & Weight
We’re sure you have heard that proteins are the building blocks of life, but just how important are these amino acids (really). Eating enough good quality protein improves sleep, keeps energy levels up, curbs appetite, improves mood, regulates blood sugar, AND (in case you aren’t sold yet) increases metabolism and muscle building. These little building blocks play a crucial role in just about every cell and tissue in our bodies.
Protein for mental health
Small, frequent meals with protein help the brain synthesize dopamine, serotonin and blood sugar so that you feel better – so you’re more enjoyable to be around J. It’s best to go no longer than 4 hours without a high protein snack or meal. Great high-protein snacks include nuts, hard-boiled eggs, hummus or legume based dip, or smoothies (with protein powder, of course). Also, be sure to include lots of fiber and nutrient dense vegetables (the greener the better!) to these snacks and meals. Not only will the nutrients help increase absorption but also the fiber will keep you feeling full and satiated for a longer period of time. It’s a win, win.
How much protein do I need?
We recommend everyone have at least 15 grams of protein for breakfast each morning. There are a couple of ways to calculate how much protein you need during the rest of the day. Protein should equal about 1/3 of your daily caloric intake or 8 grams of protein for every 20 lbs of body weight, with a maximum of 120 grams per day. The amount of protein ideal for optimal performance also depends on your level of activity; the more active you are, the more protein you will most likely require.
Is all protein created equal?
Yes and no. Yes, a gram is a gram however the quality of your protein is very important. When it comes to dairy, make sure to buy all organic and hormone-free products. Food for thought: when you consume food that has been treated with hormones, those wonderful little additions will interfere with your hormone levels. Better to avoid it. Also, all meats should be organic and grass-fed, when possible. You may be asking yourself why grass-fed is important so here is the quick answer: when you feed cows grains or grass the omega profile of the fat and meat shift. Grass-fed meat shifts in favor of anti-inflammatory fats, while grain fed trend towards inflammatory fats. It’s also best to buy organic eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds. Moral of the story, choose organic protein when possible!
Ingredients to avoid in protein powders:
- Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame
- Fillers such as prebiotic fibers
- Partially hydrogenated oils
- Carrageenan – cancer causing binder often found in plant-based products
- ANYTHING YOU CANT PRONOUNCE
Healthy Protein Sources
|Whole Beans||1/2 c||7 g|
|Refried Beans||1/2 c||8 g|
|Gardenburger||1 patty||11 g|
|Lentils||1/2 c||9 g|
|Firm Tofu||1/2 c||20 g|
|Tofu||1/2 c||10 g|
|Tempeh||1/2 c||16 g|
|Most Nuts||1/4 c||8 g|
|Seeds||2 T||3 g|
|Nut Butter||2 T||8 g|
|Seed Butter||2 T||5 g|
|Wild Fish||3 oz||21 g|
|Chicken, Turkey, Beef||3 oz||21 g|
|Quinoa||1/2 c||11 g|
|Barley||1/2 c||10 g|
|Dark Rye Flour||1/2 c||9 g|
|Millet||1/2 c||4 g|
|Oats||1/2 c||3 g|
|Brown Rice||1/2 c||3 g|
|White Rice||1/2 c||3 g|
|Whole Egg||1||7 g|
|Protein Powders||1 scoop||9-15 g|
Signs your body needs protein
You may feel anxious, irritated, or agitated. You do not have an appetite for breakfast in the morning. You have gone more than 4 hours without a snack or meal. You feel hungry. You wake in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep. You have been diagnosed with diabetes, pre-diabetes, insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome. You wake up with high blood sugar in the morning, “dawn syndrome”. These are all common signs and symptoms of protein deficiency. Listen to your body – it always offers guidance!
Getting your kids to eat more protein
Meeting your child’s protein intake doesn’t have to be a struggle. The key is finding good protein sources they will enjoy and then mix these into foods they already eat.
- When in doubt, add nuts and seeds
- Banana smoothie with protein powder
- Fruit bowl with chia seeds + nut butter
- Hard boiled eggs make for a great snack
- Sneak protein powder into pancakes
- Swap the cereal bar for a high quality bar with protein. It’s best to find bars that have been minimally processed such as kind bars, lara bars, rx bars, or macrobars.
Protein is crucial for optimal health. It improves mood, metabolism, muscle building, and mental health. Focus on consuming at least 15g of protein with each meal. Lastly, protein doesn’t always have to come from animal sources – think outside the box and try plant-based sources as well!