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Your body needs protein and it's not just to build muscle. Proteins are complex molecules made up of hundreds of basic units called amino acids, and are present in every cell and tissue of your body, blood, cell membranes, hormones, antibodies and more.
The word protein comes from the Greek word 'proteios' which means 'of the first rank or importance'. Each protein has a unique shape that's determined by the architecture of the amino acids. The shape of the protein determines its role in body chemistry. Sometimes, folded proteins can also come together to form a bigger protein molecule. 18 percent of your body is made up of proteins; Collagen, keratin, enzymes, lipoproteins are some kinds of proteins that are crucial to the functioning of your body.
Proteins present in your hair, nails, skin, muscles and other parts of the body, work together to strengthen these structures and ensure complete functionality. The brouhaha over the last few years may make it seem like the primary function of protein is to help build muscle mass, but it's so much more. According to experts, the primary function of protein is to regulate cell division, replace or replenish damaged cells and ensure that our body gets a constant supply of new healthy ones. Some other functions are: boosting immunity, to build and repair tissue, ensure high metabolism, maintain weight, regulate hormone levels and aid digestion. Proteins are a kind of 'macronutrient' which means they are as important as carbohydrates and fat for your body. What makes them different though, is the fact that unlike fat and carbohydrates, your body doesn't store protein which means it needs to be consumed regularly.
High Protein Diet
Essentially, there are two kind of diets recommended for weight-loss: a low calorie diet and a low-carbohydrate diet. A low-calorie diet is one where you consume fewer calories than your body needs so it burns the fat already stored in your body and you start to lose both weight and inches.
The other kind of diet is where proteins play a pivotal role. In a low carbohydrate diet, you eliminate refined carbohydrates like sugar, bread, flour, pizza, rice, pasta, beer and all sweet wines from your diet. You limit your carbohydrate intake to 40 grams and increase the amount of protein you consume. Foods rich in protein will ensure you lose fat and not muscle. It'll help you build lean muscle; keep you full and eventually help lose weight. However, a diet with far too much protein than recommended could backfire and put you at risk of metabolic disturbance causing heart trouble. Thus any diet should be followed only after consultation with a medical expert.
High Protein Foods
There are 20 kinds of amino acids that make protein and 12 of these amino acids are made by your body. You need to eat protein-rich foods for the remaining 8. Over the years, countless studies have pushed us into believing that if you don't eat meat, then you can't possibly get adequate amount of protein. One of the arguments that works in favour of animal-based protein sources is that they provide the remaining 8 kinds of protein which vegetarian-based proteins don't. Animal-based proteins are also absorbed by the body more rapidly than their vegetarian counterpart. But many doctors are of the opinion that a diet rich in grains, nuts, legumes, and vegetables will also satisfy your protein needs.
When it comes to protein, it's important to not fall in the chicken-is-the-only-good-protein trap. Different types of protein are absorbed at different rates by your body. The time of the day you introduce them in your diet is also equally crucial. For example, whey protein which contains a high level of essential amino acids is digested quickly by your body so can be had before or after your workout. Protein which is found in milk, soy and eggs, breaks down much slower.
Here are some protein-rich foods you can include your diet:
1. Eggs You've seen muscle heads at the gym or on television chugging raw eggs so you're familiar with the fact that it's rich in protein. One egg contains 6 grams of protein and this is evenly distributed between the yolk and white part of the eggs.
2. Spirulina - A kind of superfood, spirulina is a kind of microorganism that's spiral in shape. Spirulina is a great way for non-meat eaters to bulk up on protein. A single ounce of spirulina powder contains about 16 grams of protein that's almost three times the amount you'll find in a piece of steak.
3. Fish & other seafood - Fish like tuna, salmon, cod, sole and halibut are great sources of protein and 100 grams of any contain around 26 grams of protein.
4. Paneer or cottage cheese - Half a cup of crumbly cottage cheese contains around 14 grams of protein. You can eat it as a snack or a little before lunch time since this is a slow-digesting protein.
5. Chicken Breast 800 grams of chicken breast has around 27 grams of protein and can be baked, boiled or steamed.
Some other sources of protein are: pumpkin seeds, dried lentils, tofu, peas, edamame, yogurt, wheat germ, quinoa, lean beef, veal and nuts.
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