The role of protein in weight reduction

In battling weight loss, many people increase their intake of fruit and vegetables and sacrifice the amount of protein they eat, believing this to be the quickest route to their goal. While this seems like a very healthy option, it may not be the most sensible for weight loss in the long term. Protein is more satiating than carbohydrate or fat. Therefore if your diet is protein restricted, you will tend to be hungry and will then tend to overeat carbohydrates (particularly those foods that are high in carbohydrates such as bread and pasta in an attempt to feel satiated rather than lower carbohydrate foods such as green leafy vegetables).

The role of protein in weight reduction cannot be stressed enough. A person is more likely to see weight loss results by choosing to eat some calories from protein sources eg. meat, fish, pulses etc. while maintaining a moderate carbohydrate reduction. The reason is that protein will assist the body to burn fat more effectively.

Protein is a major component of skin, muscles, organs, and glands. Without sufficient protein, the body is unable to sustain and regenerate itself. Furthermore, protein is especially important for growth and development during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy and is the single most important nutrient that influences metabolic rate and favourably influences weight loss. It improves immunity and antioxidant function, builds HDL cholesterol, and enhances insulin function. It facilitates the message to the body to feel satisfied. All these functions contribute to the ability of the body to reach and maintain its ideal weight.

There are two classes of protein: 1) incomplete proteins and 2) complete proteins.

Incomplete proteins are found in plant foods such as grains, nuts, beans and vegetables and provide a limited array of amino acids. They must be eaten in a vast amount to enable us to receive all that is needed for protein building.

Complete proteins come from animal products such as chicken, fish and dairy products and they contain all the essential amino acids which are needed to help keep our body fit and healthy. These are especially important because they form the structure of every part of the body.

Proteins are composed of amino acids, twelve of which are made by the human body. The other nine are called essential amino acids and must be obtained from food.

Thus protein can also be broken down into two types: 1) animal and 2) vegetable
Animal protein comes from meat, milk and milk products, egg, poultry and fish and these all contain balanced levels of essential amino acids needed for reassembling into human protein. Because they have all the essential amino acids, they fall under complete proteins.

Some people think that complete protein cannot be obtained from vegetable sources. The truth is that most proteins from vegetables also contain all nine essential amino acids, but one or two of them may be at low levels compared to the protein in animal foods. The amino acids found in vegetables are just as high quality as the amino acids found in animals products and can be used just as effectively by the human body. Foods that offer high levels of incomplete protein include beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and many grains. Beans, lentils, and peas can be easily combined with brown rice or corn to create a delicious complete protein dish. Cheese added to pulses or other vegetable dishes, or to grain dishes, creates a complete protein for non-vegetarians. Other combos that create complete protein include bean or lentil soup combined with a side of whole grain crackers, hummus on pita bread.

Ideally, you should make use of vegetable sources of protein. They are good sources of dietary fibre and are generally low in fat, especially saturated fat. But it is important to ensure a balanced amino acid intake by combining food sources. Animal protein is generally associated with high fat content so choose lower fat options such as lean cuts of white meat, poultry and fish and make red meat an occasional part of your diet.

Check out our wide range of healthy recipes, most of them are designed to recognise the role of protein in weight reduction.

Blog Post by Michael O'Brien