THE BLOG

How Protein Can Improve Your Health

11/01/2013 01:23 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

I was 20-something and it was the 90s, low-fat was all the rage. Everything you could probably think of was low fat. Back then everyone thought if you ate low fat then you would never put on fat. Looks like the joke was on me. During those years, I would go to the gym with a big puffy scrunchie in my hair, spend an hour on the Stairmaster (I know how 90s) then come home and eat through a whole bag of low fat chips, low fat ice cream, etc.

Looking back, I can see how unhealthful that was and thankfully there is more reliable nutritional information out there now. As many of you have read in my blog, I eat a mainly vegan diet and love it. I am never hungry and feel better than I ever have. Recently, I have been focusing more on the protein in my diet. Protein is so yummy and good for you.

I spoke with Brendan Brazier formulator of Vega -- a product line of clean, plant-based nutrition, Brendan shared with me some of the top benefits of having protein in your diet, "Almost anyone can supplement with protein -- unless they have been placed on a medically low-protein diet. Athletes hoping to improve muscle tone or recover after exercise can benefit from a high-quality protein supplement. If you're on a calorie-restricted weight loss diet, a nutrient-dense protein supplement can help."

Even if you're not an elite athlete, adding a protein supplement can lead to better muscle tone. It also helps you recover faster from exercise. Protein is required by almost every cell in your body. Plant-based proteins are rich in the phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals your body needs for metabolism and overall well-being.

Plant-based proteins are also alkaline-forming, which helps to reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels, reduce inflammation, and support long-term bone health. Pairing plant-based protein with exercise leads to less soreness, better muscle tone and a stronger immune system.

Eating protein-rich foods leaves you feeling fuller than eating strictly carbohydrate snacks or meals. If you are more full and satisfied, you're likely to eat less. Protein has no effect on your blood sugar levels and can help to reduce the glycemic load of a meal when paired with carbohydrates, so you have even, sustained energy that doesn't spike and crash after you eat.

In that way, protein can help with weight loss. It's important to remember that while protein is vital, managing weight and feeling your best is all about balancing your macronutrients -- protein, healthy fat and unrefined complex carbohydrates -- by eating nutrient-dense whole foods that give your body the nutrition it needs to thrive.

Here are Brendan's top five tips for using protein in your daily diet:

1. Look for a protein that is plant-based and made from multiple ingredients (such as a blend of rice, pea, alfalfa or hemp proteins).

2. Avoid using heavily processed protein supplements that have been isolated (such as isolated soy or whey proteins).

3. Avoid protein supplements that have added sugar, artificial flavours, colours or sweeteners.

4. Take a protein supplement any time of day -- when you wake up, as a snack or before bed.

5. Consume a protein supplement within 40 minutes after a workout.

I love using protein in my meals and even as a snack before bed. If I am too tired to make a meal and just want to lay in bed and watch reality television, then I use some protein powder and mix with some berries, it is also great if you want to lose weight and have a light snack.

Keep an eye on my blog as I continue to try different kinds of healthy foods and supplements. I am delighted to share my experiences so you can live your very best life.

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