Protein is one of those buzzwords that we know we should include in our diets, but we don’t really know why it’s important. When we started researching how to create the healthiest, best-tasting breakfast bar, protein just kept coming up.
The more we learned about protein, the more we wanted to share that knowledge to help everyone understand just how important it is for keeping you running at full steam ahead. Want to learn more about protein? Get ready for Over Easy to blow your mind.
How Much Protein Should I Be Getting Every Day?
Daily recommendations often seem like some obscure fact that we know we should pay attention to but tend to ignore. Where do they come from? How much should we be getting daily? Ask anyone what they are without the ability to look it up on their phone, and they likely won’t be able to come up with an answer.
It’s generally agreed that the recommended daily allowance (or RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams for every kilogram that you weigh. Since we don’t use kilograms as our main method of weight measurement in the United States, the quick way to figure it out is just 35% of your body weight. For example, someone who weighs 130 pounds would need about 47 grams of protein daily (130 x 35% = 47). Make sense?
Keep in mind that this is a minimum daily requirement. That means you need to eat at least that much to stay healthy and give your body exactly what it needs to function properly. If you get too little protein, you will likely notice swelling (known as edema), mood changes, problems with your hair, skin, and nails, and weakness or fatigue. No thanks, hand us the protein!
On the other hand, there’s also such a thing as eating too much protein. While you’d have to really try to get too much, it can lead to kidney disease, brain fog, and GI issues like constipation or diarrhea. This is mostly a problem for people who eat specifically high-protein diets for long periods of time, so unless you’re eating only steak for every single meal, you’re probably fine.
What Foods Have Protein?
There are tons of misconceptions about what foods have protein and where it comes from. For many, protein means meat, and that’s that. How many times have you been out to eat at a restaurant and had the waiter ask you what protein you’d prefer? However, protein is so much more than just meat. In fact, you can live a completely vegetarian or vegan lifestyle and still get your recommended daily allowance of protein without too much trouble.
One of the most protein-rich foods out there actually isn’t meat-based at all. Eggs are packed full of essential nutrients, protein and vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats. When you cut out the egg yolk, just the egg whites are even more pure protein minus all the fat and cholesterol. That’s why we chose to use them in our breakfast bars. They’re one of the best sources of protein out there, with the fewest drawbacks, not to mention that they taste pretty darn good.
For those who don’t eat any animal products whatsoever, don’t go nuts. Almonds are another whole food that is high in natural protein. 15% of the calories in almonds come from protein, and they also contain plenty of things that our bodies need to function, like magnesium, vitamin E, and fiber. Pistachios and cashews are also high in protein, as are peanuts.
Oats are high in protein as well, while also providing at least a serving of whole grains. It’s actually one of the healthiest grains out there, with around 11 grams of protein in a single cup, as well as B1, magnesium, and healthy fibers. In fact, the fiber in the oats can help to increase your feelings of fullness even further, which is why many people choose oats or oatmeal to start their day.
If you’d prefer to get your protein from animal sources, lean meats like boneless, skinless chicken and turkey breast are great places to start. Not only are they high in protein, but they’re naturally low in fat and incredibly versatile, so start trying out some funky recipes. Ounce for ounce, they’re also one of the best sources of protein.
It’s actually preferable to get most of your protein from plant-based sources, as non-plant-based protein sources also tend to be higher in fat, which should be limited in any healthy diet. This also limits sources of cholesterol, which can lead to disease. Eating a more plant-based diet is also much better for the environment, in the long run, so you can feel healthier while also helping the planet.
What about soy, you ask? We don’t use soy in any of our breakfast bars because while it can be a great source of protein, research shows that soy may mimic estrogen in the body. For most people, this is ok. For those with a family history of breast cancer, it can increase the risk. Even though that increase is relatively small, it’s not a risk we were willing to take.
Why Is Protein So Important?
Protein is the essential building block of the body. Our organs, skin, muscles, and even hormones are both created and supported by protein (and their basic components, amino acids). Without protein, the body can’t perform basic functions like growth, maintenance, and repair. It also helps transport oxygen throughout the body, which provides your system with all the nutrients it needs to survive and thrive. Because you need it in such large amounts, protein is considered a macronutrient, along with carbohydrates and fat.
Protein can also help you to lose weight if that is your goal. In addition to just bodyweight, a diet that’s rich in protein can reduce your belly fat while increasing both your muscle strength and mass. It can really help you build your dream body if hitting the gym is your thing. It also helps keep you feeling full for a longer period of time, as it takes far longer to digest and break down than any other macro or micronutrient.
It is also an important part of helping the body maintain normal blood sugar levels, although carbohydrates get far more attention. When protein is present in the same meal as carbohydrates, it acts as a buffer to slow down the speed that carbs are turned into sugar.
Diets that are high in protein also can help fight off the potential for diabetes and heart disease, while also lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol. Protein provides such a huge range of functions and protections for the body that it’s surprising it’s not more of the star of the show.
What Is Protein Actually Made Of?
If it’s been a while since your last science class, you may not remember what protein is actually made of.
Protein is made up of building blocks known as amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids that the body can use to make protein, which are broken down into two categories. Essential amino acids are amino acids that your body is unable to produce on its own and need to be supplemented into the diet from a secondary source. Non-essential amino acids are amino acids that your body is able to produce on its own. There are 9 essential amino acids and 11 non-essential amino acids, but most people get both without trying.
When you’re looking into sources of protein, choose complex proteins. Complex proteins contain every essential amino acid that you need to function properly. Examples of complex proteins include quinoa, meat, and eggs. Hey, that sounds like Over Easy!
A Few Random Protein Facts
- The word “protein” comes from the Greek word “proteios,” which means “first rank” or “primary.”
- 20% of the human body is made out of protein.
- The lifespan of most of the protein is about two days, and there are more than 10,000 different types that can be found in the body.
- Our hair is made up entirely of a protein known as keratin.
- Protein has four different structures - primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary. Each is essential to the function and structure in slightly different ways.
- DNA is partially made out of protein, which explains why it is so essential!
- Bodybuilders swear that increased protein levels can help them build more mass in a shorter period of time.
Protein is one of the most important nutrients to focus on for eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. Over Easy breakfast bars were designed with protein (and taste) in mind, which comes from whole food sources like egg whites and nuts. When you make sure that you get enough protein in your diet, you’re also helping to prevent disease, giving your body what it needs for growth and repair, and just generally ensuring you feel healthier overall.