For this blog, we partnered with Maria Zamarripa, MS, RD, who specializes in functional nutrition at FoodFarmacistRD.com to share unique ideas for how to incorporate protein into your diet in a more purposeful way.
Benefits of Protein
Most people attribute protein to its importance for building and maintaining muscle. However, there are many more health benefits of including protein into your diet.
Keeps you satisfied between meals. Protein is slowly digested and absorbed which results in greater appetite control and satiety (i.e. fullness) after eating a protein-containing meal or snack1.
Helps to balance blood sugar levels. Your blood sugar levels naturally rise after a meal and should return to normal after one or two hours. Protein helps to blunt the rise of your blood sugar levels after a meal2. A healthy blood sugar response is important for optimal energy throughout the day, reducing sugar cravings, and lowering your risk for chronic health conditions, like type 2 diabetes.
Promotes wound healing. Protein is required for your body to rebuild and repair tissue after a surgery, injury, or athletic event3.
Maintains a healthy immune system. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Adequate intake of various amino acids are necessary for your body’s immune system to function properly and fight off infection4.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is set at a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day5. However, this is a minimum amount to prevent deficiency for a healthy adult with minimal physical activity. Your protein requirements may vary depending on your age, activity level, health history, and other variables. For example, protein needs may be as high as 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram body weight for an adult engaging in intense physical activity each day6.
What are Protein Isolates?
When choosing protein sources, aim for whole food options that provide a nutrient-dense source of protein. Nutrient density is defined as the amount of beneficial nutrients (like fiber, vitamins, and minerals) a food provides compared to overall calories in that food. Protein isolates are a concentrated type of protein powder often found in protein drinks, bars, and other manufactured food products. While protein isolates may provide a high amount of protein per serving, these isolates are highly processed and often stripped of most other nutrients. Additionally, whey is generally the most common protein source used in these isolates which may cause side effects if you have a dairy allergy or sensitivity.
Nutrient-Dense Protein Ideas
On the other hand, there are alternative sources of protein that provide many benefits like added fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.
Two tablespoons of almond butter offers 7 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and contains essential minerals like magnesium and iron7. For a protein-rich breakfast idea, try spreading a tablespoon or two of almond butter onto a few pancakes from the new Simple Mills Protein Pancake Mix. Top your pancakes with mashed fresh berries for an easy fruit compote to provide extra vitamin C that will aid iron absorption.
Eggs are another great source of protein containing around 6 grams of protein per egg. Plus, one egg provides about 27 percent of your daily requirement for choline, an important nutrient for brain health and development8. Enjoy a veggie-rich omelet for breakfast or pair a hard-boiled egg with a side of fruit for a satisfying snack. If you’re looking to amp up your brunch game, enjoy eggs cooked on top of this Breakfast Pizza recipe.
With 9 grams of protein per ½ cup serving, lentils offer a nutrient-dense source of plant-based protein9. Lentils are also high in fiber, which is the preferred fuel source of your healthy gut bacteria. Try swapping your regular taco Tuesday for a lentil taco variety!
Salmon provides over 20 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving10. Salmon is also rich in healthy fats, known as EPA and DHA, that provide anti-inflammatory benefits. You can enjoy smoked salmon on Simple Mills Organic Seed Flour Crackers or broil salmon with thinly sliced potatoes and assorted veggies for an easy sheet pan dinner.
As part of the legume family, green peas provide about 4 grams of protein per ½ cup serving11. This nutrient-dense protein option also contains 4 grams of fiber for optimal gut health, vitamin A for your eyes, and vitamin K for building strong bones. Try a homemade green pea spread on Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers!
Small but mighty, hemp seeds provide a whopping 9 grams of protein per 3 tablespoon serving12. Plus, hemp seeds are also a great way to include more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats into your diet. Add a few tablespoons of hemp seeds to your morning smoothie, sprinkle them onto your salad for an added crunch, or mix hemp seeds into homemade energy balls.
NEW Simple Mills Protein Pancake Mix
Providing 11 grams of protein per serving, the new Simple Mills Protein Pancake Mix offers protein from purposeful, nutrient-dense ingredients like almond flour, eggs, and chickpea protein. This product is the only protein pancake mix on the market that does NOT use protein isolates. Just add water to this mix and you can easily enjoy a tasty meal or snack any day of the week that will never slow you down. While you will love the simplicity and flavor alone, you can diversify your pancake by adding your favorite nut butter spread or a mashed berry compote with added hemp seeds. If you prefer savory flavors, try topping your pancakes with an over-easy egg for a protein-packed breakfast.