Mmmm. We love protein. At Freshly, it’s the foundation for all of our meals, thanks to lean, succulent beefs, flavorful pasture-raised eggs, and tasty seasoned salmon. Because of protein, our brains work better, our bodies feel amazing, and we can manage our cravings more efficiently. If there’s any hack for boosting energy by diet, protein is at its core. A University of Minnesota study found that people who ate meaty, eggy breakfasts loaded with protein (35 grams of the stuff) felt fuller throughout the day, along with good changes in the hormones and brain signals controlling appetite. So if you’re still trying to find a way to work this powerhouse nutrient into your diet simply and conveniently, here’s your primer.
WHAT IS PROTEIN?
Protein is a macronutrient that’s essential to fueling your body, from your muscles, to your bones, to your blood. Protein molecules break down into amino acids, which you can think of as the building blocks your body needs to stay grounded, and in control. Without enough of it, you feel tired, moody, and get sick more often. Think of it this way: One gram of protein give you four solid calories of energy, so just imagine how much energy (physical + mental) you’re fueling your body with when you get the recommended dose by the Institute of Medicine. That’s at least 56 grams for men, and 46 for women.
WHAT’S THE OUTPUT?
Without getting too tangled up in the science, protein has three main benefits. It (i) gives you energy, (ii) keeps you full, and (iii) helps build and maintain lean muscle mass.
ENERGY: Protein helps you manage your blood glucose levels to avoid sugar crashes. Matched with high-quality healthy fats, its amino acids keep your mind sharp and balance out mood-controlling hormones.
SATIETY: Protein takes longer to digest, leaving you full longer. Combined with the healthy fats in our dishes, and our well-sized portions, your body will stay in the zone.
STRENGTH: Protein boosts metabolism, and helps you build lean muscle by repairing and strengthening muscle tissue.
WHAT’S A SIMPLE, EASY WAY TO GET IT?
Lean beef: Four ounces (just over 100 grams) of lean, ground beef (90% or leaner) gives you more than half (36 grams) of your daily recommended intake of protein. And beef is also rich in vitamins and minerals, along with special fats that some suggest have anti-carcinogenic properties. (As with other meats, try going grass-fed to up the nutrient intake.)
Chicken: Some people say it’s boring, but we beg to differ. No food is boring if you know how to prepare it in exciting ways. Chicken (white or dark meat) is packed with tons of good-for-your-body stuff, like omega-3, selenium and vitamins B6 and B3. 100 grams of chicken (again, about 3.5 ounces) has approximately 27 grams of protein.
Fish: It’s good grilled. It’s good steamed. It’s good with a little olive oil and lemon and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. The fish with the highest protein content are salmon, tuna, and halibut (which have about 26 grams of protein). Perch, cod, and sole are also great options. These fish are also packed with omega-3 fatty acids – healthy fats that complement their protein content pretty well.
Legumes: Beans! Chickpeas! Lentils! This protein-rich gang is full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Half a cup of beans has about 9 grams of protein.
For more resources on protein, check out some of our favorite reads around the web:
For Harvard’s take on protein: Protein: The Nutrition Source
On how protein will compliment your workout or weight-loss plan: Your Secret Weapon to Build Muscle and Burn Fat: Protein – Fat-Burning Man with Abel James
On why your protein deficit might be why you’re not feeling it, these days: 5 Signs You Should Be Eating More Protein