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Protein Power: Why You Need it for Weight Loss, Immunity and Anti-Aging

Protein Power: Why You Need it for Weight Loss, Immunity and Anti-Aging
by Dr. Natasha Turner Jun 3rd 2010 3:05AM

Natasha Turner, N.D. is a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor. She is the founder of the Clear Medicine wellness boutique and author of the bestselling book The Hormone Diet. Each week in her column for That's, Dr. Turner advises readers on how to remedy common health issues as well as improve their overall health.

Protein powders can provide an excellent source of protein in our diets. If you are a conscious eater attempting to balance healthy carbs, proteins and fats at each meal, you are probably aware that finding lean sources of protein can sometimes be challenging. This is especially true if you are a vegan, a vegetarian or a pesco-vegetarian (consume fish, eggs and dairy).

Protein is essential for immunity, for maintaining healthy body composition, for blood sugar balance, for tissue healing and repair, for muscle growth and for the production of hormones, chemical messengers and digestive enzymes in the body.

How Much Protein Should You Eat?
Without getting too technical and avoiding the need to weigh or measure your foods, use these simple guidelines.
• Include a serving of protein the size of your palm with each meal, three times a day.
• Include a serving of half of your palm size with each snack, twice a day.
• If reading labels, the typical male should have 35 grams to 40 grams per meal and 15 grams to 20 grams per snack. Women should consume 25 grams to 30 grams per meal and 15 grams per snack.

Sample of Protein Sources:

Protein-Rich Foods Protein
(in grams)
5 oz steak, cooked 35
5 oz roasted chicken 43
5 oz tuna 43
1 egg 6
1 cup milk 8
2 tbsp peanut butter 9
2 slices of cheese (low-fat is best) 14
2 slices of whole-wheat bread 5
1 cup cooked broccoli 5
1 cup beans (legumes) 15
*Individuals with kidney disease should consult their physician for proper protein requirements.

Protein Deficiency

I often see vegetarians or vegans in my office displaying symptoms of insufficient protein because they have not made a conscious effort to properly combine proteins or simply have not consumed enough protein to meet their daily requirements. Signs of insufficient protein include poor wound healing, dry skin, hair loss, gas and bloating, poor digestion, frequent colds and flus, prolonged soreness after exercise, mood swings, insomnia and depression.
Without protein, your body cannot properly make collagen to heal the skin; serotonin, dopamine and melatonin to boost mood and improve sleep, growth hormone for repair of body tissues and to slow down aging, digestive enzymes to prevent bloating and indigestion and antibodies to prevent infection.

Protein Powder Options

Since you require protein with every meal and snack, finding readily available sources can be challenging. Protein powders are a useful option. You can choose whey, soy, bean or rice protein powder options. The benefits of these alternatives are outlined below.

Soy Protein
One of the extra benefits of soy protein is hormone balance as it is mildly estrogenic and can assist with PMS, menopause, prostate health and healthy bones. But, too much of a good thing can also be bad for you. If the soy in your diet comes from sources such as tofu, tempeh or soy milk, it may be best to choose an alternate protein powder other than soy. Too much soy can be problematic due to the phytoestrogens it contains. When consumed in smaller amounts, the phytoestrogens in soy can be protective. When consumed in excess, these same phytoestrogens can be harmful.

Whey Protein
Whey is superb for weight loss. It has been proven to cause loss of fat and to maintain muscle. Whey also maintains healthy immunity and increases glutathione levels (a potent antioxidant). Out of all of the protein powders, whey is my favourite for both its taste and beneficial effects on the body.

Rice or Bean Protein
Rice or bean protein powders are a good choice for individuals with intolerance or sensitivity to dairy (whey protein is made from dairy) or to soy. I find the most common complaint with these products is the taste as they are grittier than whey protein.

Powders can be added to smoothies, yogurt, baked goods and even oatmeal. Always buy protein powders that are free of sugars and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.