10 Vital Protein Health Benefits Backed By Science

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The health benefits of macronutrients, like carbs and fats, have triggered controversies in the health communities. Probably, it is because there are many types of fats and two types of carbs.

Protein Health Benefits
Protein Health Benefits

Well, the same is valid with protein, too. But the difference is it seems everyone agrees on protein health benefits and its overall importance in health.

After all, proteins, as experts say, are the building blocks of life. Every cell living cell in the body needs protein for functional and structural purposes. Just like beads on a string, proteins are amino acids linked together in long chains.

Many are conscious of their protein consumption to avoid deficiency, while some people prefer a higher amount of protein intake.

Like some people, if you want to know more about the health benefits of protein with support from findings obtained in studies, then read on.

Below are the health benefits of protein, including better metabolism and weight loss based on numerous studies.

Protein Health Benefits Backed by Studies

Now let us explore what the studies found on protein health benefits. Knowing these benefits is something worth remembering to be able to make healthy decisions about staying healthy at all times.

Moreover, losing weight is one of the many health goals for many people today. Daily consumption of the appropriate amount of protein can help with weight loss purposes.

It also helps in maintaining and boosting the body’s metabolism, which is valuable in losing weight, as well as preventing weight gain.

But there are more protein health benefits than just losing weight alone. So, let us start exploring why you should consider proteins in your typical healthy diet.

1. Helps In Losing and Maintaining Ideal Weight

Ideal weight is dependent on person-to-person. A 6-feet person’s ideal weight can differ from someone who has just 5-feet in height. 

In one study, researchers say that overweight women were able to lose 11 lbs or approximately 5kg in 12 weeks. These overweight women ate proteins that provided 30% of the calorie they need, although they did not have any intentions to make restrictions on their diet.

An increase in dietary protein from 15% to 30% of energy at a constant carbohydrate intake produces a sustained decrease in ad libitum caloric intake that may be mediated by increased central nervous system leptin sensitivity and results in significant weight loss. 

Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82(1):41-48. doi:10.1093/ajcn.82.1.41

Combining a high-protein diet with caloric restriction has a significant effect on weight loss. A diet that comprises of a high-protein while restricting caloric intake is the Ketogenic diet.

In another 1-year long study, researchers found that a higher protein intake helps in maintaining weight. It is important to note that maintaining weight is essential because regardless of how successful one loses weight if he or she cannot maintain an ideal weight, weight gain would be imminent.

Additionally, another study has found similar results that a diet with higher protein supports weight maintenance.

2. Boosts Metabolism

There are many ways to boost metabolism, and increasing protein intake is one of them. Maintaining proper metabolism is essential as it involves many bodily processes, including weight loss.

One study suggests that higher protein intake and replacing refined carbs with proteins have a thermogenic effect on the body, helping the body lose weight and burn fat at the same time.

In one study, it says that high-protein intake helps suppress the appetite and burning fat. Appetite suppression is essential in losing weight as it prevents a person from overeating.

Usually, someone who has trouble controlling compulsive eating may take an appetite suppressant, but in this case, increasing protein intake may do the trick.

3. Suppresses Appetite and Reduces Hunger Levels

Probably, the biggest hurdle in losing weight is overeating. Uncontrollable or compulsive eating can result in weight gain, and losing weight can be an uphill battle.

Unfortunately, many people who want to lose weight have that problem. The good news is that by carefully choosing the foods to be a part of a healthy diet, one can easily overcome overeating.

Eating whole foods with high-quality proteins can help increase protein intake and, to some extent, suppress the appetite. Eating healthy foods with high-protein contents is filling.

Just like consuming foods with high dietary fibers, it can significantly reduce hunger and food cravings as it reduces ghrelin, the hunger hormone.

Moreover, protein intake also increases the peptide YY, which is a hormone that gives the sensation of being full, in the case of a high-protein breakfast.

4. Protein is Essential In Building Muscles and Strength

Proteins are not only the building blocks of life but also the building blocks of increasing muscles. Hence, if you want to build muscles, you should be eating adequate proteins.

It promotes muscle growth and strength, especially if you’re doing strength or resistance training, as this study suggests. The one reason bodybuilders take protein in supplement form is to help them bulk up.

However, as an average individual, taking protein supplements may not be necessary, but eating whole foods rich in protein is enough.

But know that even if you take protein as a supplement, it does not always mean you will bulk up like a bodybuilder. Some people may need to take supplements, perhaps due to no access to whole foods rich in proteins.

Is there a study backing up that protein enhances muscle mass? Yes, there is.

This review suggests that protein supplementation may enhance muscle mass and performance when the training stimulus is adequate (e.g., frequency, volume, duration), and dietary intake is consistent with recommendations for physically active individuals. 

5. Helps In Avoiding Late Night Snacks

Hunger and food cravings during night time can lead to late-night time snacks. Occasionally, it may not be a bad thing. However, when it becomes habitually and a nightly routine, it is terrible and can result in weight gain. 

For someone interested in losing weight, late-night food cravings for snacks is not helpful. Fortunately, increasing protein intake helps prevent cravings.

In a study of overweight men, researchers found that a 25% increase in protein intake has helped these obese men reduce cravings by 60%. Moreover, their desire to grab snacks at night has decreased by half.

In another study, eating a breakfast high in protein also reduced food cravings in adolescent girls.

6. If You’re Healthy, Protein Is Not Harmful To Your Kidneys

Many believed that high protein intake is harmful to the kidneys. On the other hand, high protein intake can be detrimental to people with pre-existing kidney disease. With that in mind, people with kidney problems should restrict protein intake.

But for healthy individuals, high protein intake is not harmful.

It is clear that protein restriction does not prevent the decline in renal function with age and, in fact, is the major cause of that decline. A better way to prevent the decline would be to increase protein intake.

MACKENZIE WALSER (THE NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS)

Another study supports such findings, and part of its conclusion says;

At present, there is not sufficient proof to warrant public health directives aimed at restricting dietary protein intake in healthy adults for the purpose of preserving renal function.

MARTIN WF, ARMSTRONG LE, RODRIGUEZ NR. DIETARY PROTEIN INTAKE AND RENAL FUNCTION. NUTR METAB (LOND). 2005;2:25. PUBLISHED 2005 SEP 20. DOI:10.1186/1743-7075-2-25

7. Prevents Sarcopenia

The clinical definition of sarcopenia as defined by a paper in Clinical Cases in Mineral and Bone Metabolism says;

Sarcopenia is a condition characterized by loss of skeletal muscle mass and function.

Sarcopenia is a common condition as a consequence of aging. Hence, older adults are at risk of sarcopenia. But the good news is that there are many ways to prevent sarcopenia and other age-related muscle deterioration. One of the best ways to achieve it is to eat more protein.

However, as this study says, while it is helpful for older adults to eat more proteins, the renal function also decreases with age. As we’ve learned earlier, eating more protein is not recommended for people with kidney problems.

Hence, the study recommends older adults to have an assessment with their renal function before adopting a high-protein diet.

If there are no kidney problems, a high-protein diet and strength training is a perfect solution for seniors to maintain muscle mass.

Moreover, it is also worth noting that taking supplements with Whey protein plus resistance training is useful for seniors in preserving muscles.

8. Heals The Body Faster

When an injury occurs, protein helps in speeding up the healing and recovery process. It makes sense as protein is the building block of cell tissues in living organisms, including humans, of course.

Several studies prove the importance of protein in healing wounds.

9. Helps Maintain A Healthy Blood Pressure

Some studies find a higher intake of protein can lower blood pressure. On the other hand, some studies have shown improvements in certain risk factors for heart disease.

For instance, one study finds that eating more proteins is helpful for both lowering blood pressure and the reduction of bad cholesterol (LDL). In this same study, researchers also found that protein intake also reduces triglycerides. 

In the setting of a healthful diet, partial substitution of carbohydrate with either protein or monounsaturated fat can further lower blood pressure, improve lipid levels, and reduce estimated cardiovascular risk.

APPEL LJ, SACKS FM, CAREY VJ, ET AL. EFFECTS OF PROTEIN, MONOUNSATURATED FAT, AND CARBOHYDRATE INTAKE ON BLOOD PRESSURE AND SERUM LIPIDS: RESULTS OF THE OMNIHEART RANDOMIZED TRIAL. JAMA. 2005;294(19):2455–2464. DOI:10.1001/JAMA.294.19.2455

10. Essential For Bone Health

Bone health declines with age. Fortunately, people who have higher protein intake in their diet have healthier bones, lower risk of experiencing osteoporosis, and less risk of fractures as they age.

Here is what one study says about the importance of protein for bone health in elderly people.

Ensuring adequate dietary protein intake is an important component of bone health in elders.

And, another study particularly mentioned animal protein for bone health in postmenopausal women.

Intake of dietary protein, especially from animal sources, may be associated with a reduced incidence of hip fractures in postmenopausal women.

Protein Sources

The body does not store and make protein. In fact, it does not make all the amino acids it needs, yet it’s essential to supply our body with those missing amino acids through diet.

Food Rich In Proteins
Best Foods For Sources of Proteins

Fortunately, protein is plentiful in the food we eat regularly such as plants and meats.

Meats are a complete source of protein. They provide all the essential amino acids the body requires. Plant-based proteins, on the other hand, may not have all the essential amino acids enough to supply the body’s daily requirements.

Among the best sources of protein include the following;

  1. Chicken and Turkey Breasts
  2. Fish like Salmon, Tuna, and Halibut (Wild is better)
  3. Cheese
  4. Lean Veal and Beef (Grass-Fed)
  5. Pork Loin
  6. Tofu
  7. Beans
  8. Egg Whites
  9. Yogurt, Milk, and Soymilk
  10. Nuts and Seeds

There are also numerous vegetables that contain a good amount of proteins like broccoli, peas, kale, spinach, mushrooms, sprouts, asparagus, corn, artichokes, and many others.

The key to eating a well-balanced meal is to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables along with meat and fish. Of course, you should not forget to consume a good amount of healthy fats like coconut oil and olive oil.

Nuts and fishes also contain healthy fats.

What you want to avoid is highly processed foods from fast-food chains or pre-packaged foods that are jam-packed with a high amount of preservatives that can be harmful in the long run.

In fact, if you eat these highly processed foods very often, you won’t be feeling good and at the same time increasing fat storage, which is mostly visible as belly fat that has been associated with numerous health risks.

If you’re a vegan, check these plant-based protein sources.

Amount of Proteins Required Per Day

The standard formula for calculating the right amount of protein is “CURRENT WEIGHT(lbs)” x 0.38 (or 0.68 if you’re over 64 years old), and the results of this are a number of proteins in grams you need on a daily basis.

For instance, a 40 years old person who weighs 150 pounds, daily protein requirement would be 150x.038=57 grams. If this person eats three meals a day, 57 grams of protein will be equally distributed through the three meals, which equals to approximately 20 grams of protein per meal.

This is just the standard calculation of protein requirements based on USDA’s DRI(Dietary Reference Intake).

However, there are those who require beyond what the standard calculation of protein due to certain goals like losing weight or building muscles, and here’s the explanation on a more tailored protein requirement per individual preference.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, the information here on protein can help you make a well-informed decision to include it in your diet. Protein is essential and beneficial for overall health.

However, while high-protein intake is helpful for many healthy people, some should take precaution especially those with kidney problems.

By now, you should have the idea that losing weight is not just about eating less refined carbs but also increasing protein intake. If you’re planning or currently in the process of building muscles, protein is valuable.

Moreover, if you’re a vegan, know that there are plant-based protein sources without you necessarily eating meat-based proteins. As far as the quality of proteins is concerned, it is debatable.

But one thing you should consider, do not just focus on protein alone. Instead, get as much as possible a variety of nutrients from a wide range of sources, mainly organic and whole foods.

Get your occasional proteins from meats or animal products while mostly getting it from plant sources. When it comes to animal proteins, make sure the meats come from organically-grown animals. For example, for beef, make sure it is from grass-fed cows.

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