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The Importance of Protein: Understanding What It Is and How it Helps Your Body

What It Is and How It Helps

Proteins are large complex molecules made up of chains of amino acids that help the cells in your body do what it needs to do to support and regulate your body’s tissue and organs. So, let’s go back to science class for a second!

What is a molecule?

A substance that contains two or more atoms which have similar or different elements such as protons,

neutrons and electrons that are chemically bonded together. Some examples of these atoms are oxygen, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Molecules which are made up of these atoms can be in the form of water or glucose.

What is important to know about the role of amino acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks for protein and your body has thousands of proteins with each having its own job.

Amino acids help with the following:

  • Break down food.

  • Grow and repair body tissue.

  • Make hormones and brain chemicals (neurotransmitters).

  • Provide an energy source.

  • Maintain healthy skin, hair and nails.

  • Build muscle.

  • Boost your immune system.

However, your body creates all but nine of the amino acids it needs, and these are called essential

amino acids. These can be found in animal proteins such as beef, poultry, fish, soy, dairy, eggs, quinoa

and buckwheat. When protein is consumed, these amino acids are broken down in the digestion process and to maintain good health, you will need large amounts of essential amino acids.

Protein Consumption and Weight Loss

So, here’s the truth! Yes, protein does help you lose weight and the more protein you consume, the more weight you may lose. Let’s stick to the science:


A higher intake of protein helps to increase the appetite reducing hormones while

reducing the hunger hormones which simply means you end up consuming less

calories because you automatically feel fuller for longer periods known as satiety.

This happens when the Leptin hormone, which is released by the fat cells,

successfully communicates to the brain that you are full.


Some calories you consume are used in the digestive process and help to metabolize food eaten. The burning of these calories is known as thermogenesis which is the process of creating heat in the body.

It is proven that protein contains the highest percentage of thermic effect because it takes longer to break down and needs more energy. If calories are left unburnt, they create weight gain so it is

important to combine a proper diet with regular exercise.

- Other than protein, there are some naturally thermogenic foods that can help boost metabolism

and burn more calories leading to weight loss; they are: caffeine, green tea, ginger, spicy and high-

fiber foods.

Muscle Preservation and Lean Body Mass:

Losing muscle can be a side effect of losing weight because when you lose weight

you end up losing muscle mass as well. So, what you really want to focus on is

losing muscle fat!

Particularly the fat under the skin and around your organs.

Eating more protein increases your metabolism and helps to REDUCE loss of

muscle. Strength training is key to a FAT LOSS plan. Without strength training you

can end up looking ‘skinny-fat’ instead of ‘fit and lean’.


1. No. of protein = Total calorie needs. The daily recommended intake of protein for healthy adults is

10% to 35% of your total calorie needs. One gram of protein supplies 4 calories. Therefore, a

person on a 2000 calorie diet could eat 100 grams of protein, or 400 calories from protein, which

would supply 20% of their total daily calories.

2. Whole grains contain more protein than refined or "white" products.

3. Other good sources of protein include: Pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, split peas,

or garbanzo beans, Nuts and seeds, including almonds, hazelnuts, mixed nuts, peanuts, peanut

butter, sunflower seeds, or walnuts (Nuts are high in fat so be mindful of portion sizes. Eating

calories in excess of your needs may lead to weight gain.)



Two-mix meals

A two-mix is the simplest and least expensive meal combination, consisting of:

1) A cereal grain

2) Legumes or animal foods

When you pair a cereal grain like rice with legumes like beans, peas, or peanuts, they form a complete

protein — a food that provides all nine essential amino acids in adequate amounts for good health. This means that you don’t need to eat meat to get quality protein.

1) Animal foods

2)Ground provisions

Ground provisions such as dasheen, cassava, sweet potato, yam, and eddoes haven’t been shown to form a complete protein when paired with legumes, so it’s best to eat them with meat or fish.

Examples of two-mixes

  • rice and stewed lentils

  • dasheen (taro root) and curried crabs

  • bread and peanut butter

Three-mix meals

The three-mix meal builds on the principles of the two-mix by adding non-starchy vegetables.

Three of the four foundational food groups are represented at any meal:

1) a cereal grain,

2) legumes or animal foods, and

3) non-starchy vegetables

1) ground provisions,

2) animal foods, and

3) non-starchy vegetables

1) a cereal grain or ground provisions,

2) legumes, and

3) animal foods

Non-starchy vegetables, which include asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, and more, provide small amounts of carbs per serving — about one-third the amount found in grains and cereals.

Examples of three-mixes

  • rice, dhal (split peas), and sautéed bhagi (spinach)

  • sada roti (flatbread), saltfish buljol (salted fish stir-fried with vegetables), and tomato choka (seasoned tomato, cooked and mashed)

  • stewed oxtail, pigeon peas, and rice

We hope this blog was was helpful. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.

L. Prescott


References: Medicine Plus, Healthline and Healthkart

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