Sunday, 11 March 2012

Protein - why eating it will help you lose weight

Protein is our body's foundation and is essential for the functioning and development of our bodies, it makes up our muscles, organs skin and hair.

High protein foods act as a mild suppressant and decrease hunger more than any other food.  So including a protein source in your meals is a good idea for weight loss.  I am also a big believer that your breakfast (yes you should be having this, shame on you if your not!) should contain some protein, after all protein means 'first'.  So having it within around 20 minutes of waking will help stabilise blood sugars.  Examples, a bowl of high fibre cereal with some fruit, a low fat or live yogurt with some berries, seeds or nuts, an omelet made with 2 whole eggs with a rasher of lean bacon and a baked tomato or scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast to name just a few.

Probably the best advantage of eating protein is that it has the highest Dietary Induced Thermogenesis (DIT).   In other words protein requires more energy to process itself than any other food type.  The thermogenic effect of protein is around 25%, this means that 25% of the calories of protein are used in its own metabolism.  Compare that to carbohydrates thermogenic rating which depending if they are simple or complex is between 8 - 15% and fat is the lowest at just 3%.

Now I hate to burst the bubble, but there have always been controversial health risks associated with too much protein such as:
  • Over consumption of protein can be a burden on the kidneys and liver.
  • High protein often (but not always) means low carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are the only fuel that the brain can use and very high protein diets can deprave the brain of energy.
  • High protein foods such as meat and dairy products sometimes have high levels of saturated fat.  Saturated fats are one of the main causes of Coronary Disease.
  • A diet high in meat and low in plant foods will be lacking in phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that delay ageing and fight cancer, heart disease and other health problems.
  • High protein diets are low in fibre and may cause constipation and colon problems.
My advice would be to adhere to a diet eaten little and often including a variety of foods from all the groups, ie protein (lean meats, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, pulses, soya, nuts), complex (slow release) carbohydrates (wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, rice, pasta, and good fats (including Omega 3 & 6) such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and oily fish. Drink plenty of water, ideally carry a litre bottle (minimum) with you and sip throughout the day, more if exercising. And have the 'naughty' things, we all know what these are, moderately, not every day. 

So next time you visit the supermarket, remember to include some foods from the lovely protein group and see the weight drop off!

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