Half Baked Harvest

Protein, protein, protein. We’ve heard about it from our almond moms, our P.E teachers, and our gym-bro boyfriends. But what exactly is protein? How does it benefit us and our bodies? And why is it so important for women, in particular, to get enough of it? I've got the breakdown for you.

Half Baked Harvest

According to the ultimate authority on all things green juice girl, Goop, Protein is critical in boosting important our hormones (like insulin), vital neurotransmitters (like dopamine), and defensive immunizers (like antibodies), as well as preventing muscle weakening and loss. As the building block of every cell inside of our bodies – remember 9th grade bio? – it helps take care of how they work, process, feel, and protect themselves, whether we’re sick or healthy. It’s also required to maintain shiny hair, smooth skin, and strong nails, so those infamous Sugarbear vitamins have nothing on Emily Mariko’s iconic salmon rice bowl. Women typically have less lean muscle mass in their bodies than men, so it’s doubly important to eat enough protein that helps you maintain mobility and flexibility as you grow older. 

Protein is also a major player in the speed and operation of your metabolism. Since protein is already more difficult for the body to process, it burns more calories during the process of digestion itself, breaking down the nutrients and storing them.  Additionally, protein intake and exercise are huge components of how well we are able to age. Protein, like fruits and fiber-rich vegetables, is typically digested slower in our bodies, resulting in it being ultimately more filling compared to their (gulp) carbohydrate counterparts. How much protein you should consume every day depends on how much you weigh and how much exercise you usually do. Most studies and dietary guidelines indicate 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight to be sufficient, though that number increases to 1.3 grams per pound if you’re working out or past the age of 65. 

How much protein you eat is especially important

For women in particular, throughout our unique multiple life stages. During pregnancy, eating more protein (up to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight, to be precise) in order to support the expansion of the uterus, the development of the fetus and the growth of placental tissues, is almost always recommended by doctors – and after the process of menopause, women are at higher risk of injury due to declining estrogen levels causing bone loss, so increasing your protein intake is definitely necessary to fortify your muscles, increase your strength, and help repair existing tissue faster. 

Half Baked Harvest

Signs You're Not Eating Enough Protein

Moodiness, recurring fatigue, enduring hunger, frequent sickness, and brittle or damaged hair, nails, and skin. Fabulously protein-rich foods include red and lean meats (like beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and fish) fish, dairy (like eggs, cheese, and yogurt), legumes (like peas, soybeans, and lentils) nuts (like almonds, peanuts, and pistachios) and seeds and seeds (like pumpkin, sunflower, and hemp). Most dietitians recommend incorporating a healthy mix of meat-based and plant-based proteins into your diet, although products like protein powders, bars, biscuits and even chocolate-chip cookies have also (thankfully) come into fashion. 

Don't Each TOO Much Protein, Either

Eating too much protein can be toxic for your kidneys, and leave you at higher risk for kidney stones, considering protein is slow digesting for your system. High-protein diets that contain high amounts of saturated fat and red meat might result in higher risks of colon cancer and heart disease. Be sure to check that you’re not over-consuming protein if you’re not matching it with equally strenuous bodybuilding and workout routines, as well as maintaining a balanced, healthy diet of other macronutrients as well. Make sure to blend your protein consumption with eating a regular and healthy amount of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and yes, carbohydrates, to make sure your blood sugar remains balanced.

TLDR; protein is incredibly important for making sure your body works, feels, and looks the best it can possibly be, at all ages – but particularly for women, especially during pregnancy and after menopause. It makes you stronger, boosts your metabolism, and lightens your mood. Eating a balanced, protein-rich diet according to your weight, workouts, and stage of life is critical to boosting and protecting your health – just remember not to go overboard.

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