What’s the big deal about protein?
Why is protein so important? It’s a wickedly fascinating food source that breaks down in the stomach into amino acids. You could compare it to building with Lego blocks. You take the construction apart, mix up the colours and build something new. The same applies to protein, and hey presto, these blocks find new partners and rebuild into new amino acids. The body uses these new blocks to perform important functions. The most important of these is the building of new cells for growth or maintenance. Our bodies are made to survive, so this is a function that is ‘built in by nature’. Survival, friends, it’s all about survival, otherwise we wouldn’t have been around for so long. The second task for those new amino acid building blocks (if there are enough of them, that is) is to maintain your immune system. Now that you think about it, isn’t it always that when you are tired and run down, you end up with a cold, the flu or worse? Were you eating well in the lead-up? No, possibly not… We catch up with ourselves at such moments.
Once our cell renewal program and our immune system have had their share of our protein intake, we may have some building blocks left to boost our mood. The brain runs on (amino acid based) stuff like dopamine (for good moods) and serotonin (calming). If our protein intake is low, over extended times, we can become deficient. Some of the amino acids are not available and our mood drops. Sometimes, the feeling of depression or anxiety can partly be the result of a deficiency in protein over time. It can even occur in those that take extra protein into their daily intake. In that case it’s getting burnt up faster than it can be processed, and all the building blocks are going to cell repair and renewal. This can happen with extreme workout programs. Balance is a big part of the protein picture. Balance in the amount and quality. Balance in knowing what our needs are, and how they can change per life stage. Making sure that you have good quality protein as part of every meal is essential to keep all three important functions going. Renewal, immune function and mood shaping, that’s the order of nature, even if it leaves us unhappy. So make sure you never pass on protein; it’s a superb hunger filler. Now you know why:)