The importance of a high-protein diet


BENNINGTON — From the animals that graze the land to the land the animals graze on, it's easy to forget where the food on our dinner plate originated from. Nowadays there are so many terms and abbreviations, it's hard to tell what food is real anymore.

GMO's? Organic? Grass-fed? Whole grain, quinoa, chia, aye, ya yi .

The point is, you need to know what you're eating, whether or not you care enough to figure out where the product derived from is up to your conscience.

I like to think of meals in the form of protein, carbohydrates and fat. For this purpose, I'd like to reflect on the importance of protein and how it sits beside its macronutrient siblings.

For starters, it's important to know that each gram of protein contains four calories. So, if you have a chicken breast that is 140 calories, then the protein you're gaining from it equals 35 grams. Protein is crucial for your diet or lifestyle because it helps build muscle mass, which increases the metabolism, AKA burns calories and fat and makes you skinnier.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, having a bread roll for lunch and mashed potatoes for dinner, is not what you would want to eat to help build muscle, increase metabolism and lose weight. Bread and potatoes are carbs and certainly fuel the body for use of energy (glucose), but because carbs are composed of natural sugars, starches and fiber, it will be stored as fat if too much is consumed and not used for energy. This is why there are so many food products that are low-carb because more than often people try to avoid carbs and load up on vegetables and protein in fear of carbs leading to fat.

Some benefits of protein include building and repairing tissue, building muscle mass, keeping full longer after a meal, prevents type two diabetes by stabilizing sugar levels, balances hormones, strengthens bones, helps prevent from heart disease, and helps with aging because after a while it's hard for your body to synthesize amino acids.

When a muscle is worked out, tissue is broken down. This is why gym goers can be found with a shaker cup filled with protein powder immediately after a lifting session. Whey protein powder is an alternative to natural food and contains twice the amount of protein (generally) a piece of steak would. It's also just good for your body because of the fact that hair and nails are made out of protein. Protein is considered a macronutrient and a much needed diet ingredient because the body doesn't store it for when needed like micronutrients do, according to WebMD writer Neil Osterweil.

While composing a grocery list for protein, don't restrict yourself to animal meat. Even though fish, chicken, beef, turkey and pork are the most common forms of protein consumption, many plants provide the same benefit.

According to, a number of high-protein foods consists of greek yogurt, cottage cheese, swiss cheese, eggs, milk, beans, peanut butter, nuts, tofu, edamame, wheat germ, soba noodles, and quinoa. If you're vegetarian or vegan, maintaining a high protein diet may be difficult, but there are various plant based protein powders on the market to make up for what food sources can't be consumed.

This is not to say that fat and carbs are worse than protein, it's just to highlight the most important and effective nutrient out of the three. All have their own benefits and variety of recipes.

Osterweil suggests that teenage boys and active men should seek out 198 grams of protein each day while children, women and older people should get about 140 grams, and older children and active girls and women should get about 170 grams. The intake generally depends on the output or energy used. If your activity level is low, then you're not using the food you eat for energy, which means you wouldn't need to consume a lot of macronutrients, however, an athlete or someone who exercises three to five times each week, should be able to use between 170 and 190 grams of protein.

Depending on your diet, quality protein may require additional effort to incorporate, but the outcome is worth much more than medical bills. According to the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), the less physical activity one does, the more susceptible they are for injury or illness. For the price of tasty food, a pricey grocery store receipt looks much more appealing than twice the cost of a hospital bill.

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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