Monday, July 11, 2011

Protein in Your Diet Can Reduce Hunger and Help with Weight Loss

A common mistake that many people make with their diets is that they don't consume enough calories from protein each day. Protein is so important for our health because the structural elements of our cells and our muscles are composed of proteins. In addition, the enzymes that drive chemical reactions in our bodies, including digestion and metabolism, and our antibodies, which partly comprise our immune system, are made up of amino acids, which make up proteins. But aside from that, there are so many other reasons to stop skimping on protein, including the fact that it helps curb hunger cravings, according to new research.

Many people don't quite know what good sources of protein are, or they find it difficult to prepare each day, so it makes it tricky to have enough at each meal. It is much easier for many people to prepare meals and snacks that are rich in carbohydrates and fat, yet this ends up leading to a self-propagating cycle of carb and fat consumption. The less protein you eat, the more carbs you tend to crave, and the more calories you tend to eat over all, leading to weight gain. Skimping on protein simply sends your cravings out of whack, which has been emphasized in a new study.

In the study, participants followed a diet of either 25% or 14% protein each day. The recommendation in Canada is to have at least 10-35% of your daily calories from protein. The calories from fat stayed the same in both groups. Within each group, some people ate three times a day, while others ate six times a day. The researchers found no real difference in hunger between the groups who ate with different frequencies, but they confirmed that the participants in the higher protein group were less hungry over all. Those on the higher protein diet also experienced increased satiety and decreased hunger in the evenings and late night hours.

As with previous research, it was found that those who ate higher protein breakfasts, including eggs or cottage cheese, ended up eating fewer calories throughout the day, compared with a bagel or other carbohydrate-rich breakfasts of equal caloric value. Consuming fewer calories each day, or at least more often, can assist with weight loss or healthy weight management.

Some great lean sources of protein include egg whites, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, chicken breasts, turkey breast, pork chops and extra lean ground beef or steak. Beans and legumes as well as tofu are also great vegetarian options. Prepare some ahead of time on Sunday or at night for the next day so you always have some on hand!