Written by Toni McKinnon
Sponsored by USANA Health Sciences
We’ve become very picky eaters when it comes to the sources of the foods we eat, and the food industry has taken notice. Take protein, for example. We want to know where it comes from, and precisely what’s in it. Luckily for us, there are now a wide variety of pure protein sources available to meet the demands of even the most finicky protein consumers.
Whey protein can now be sourced from cattle that have not been treated with synthetic hormones (no added rbST or rBGH) and processed using low-temperature pasteurization to minimize denaturing of the protein. High-quality soy protein can be sourced from plants that are not genetically engineered. There are even unique protein blends that can provide complete protein (a protein is considered complete when it contains an adequate proportion of all nine of the essential amino acids that humans cannot produce on their own). One such unique blend utilizes both pea and potato protein. Both are exceptional sources of amino acids and when combined, provide an excellent pure protein source.
The Power of Protein
Did you know that protein is essential to life? Protein is a powerful nutrient made up of many amino acids that are components of every cell in your body. Protein is used to build and repair tissues and make enzymes and hormones, blood cells, and many other substances essential to life. It is also an important building block for muscles, bones, cartilage, and skin. Even your hair and nails are mostly made up of protein.
Just like fat and carbohydrates, protein is a macronutrient (meaning that your body needs relatively large amounts). But unlike with fat and carbs, your body doesn’t store usable protein. Your amino acids stores are constantly used and must be replenished. If enough isn’t provided by dietary sources, your body will start to take it from your muscle mass. An adequate dietary protein intake is important across the life cycle, especially as we age. Protein deficiency can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, and hair loss and can contribute to a variety of other conditions.
Why Make Protein Part of Your Diet
Protein has long been used by body builders to help build muscle, but it is also an excellent part of a low-carb diet, weight-loss program, or any of the recent fitness trends. Slow release proteins such as casein from dairy can help stabilize blood sugar — this also helps you feel more satisfied so you are less likely to go back for seconds (or thirds), meaning you consume less calories.
Today protein is available in many convenient forms (hint — you don’t have to cook it first). And you can easily find products to meet your individualized needs, i.e., allergy concerns, a sensitive digestive system, environmental concerns, and even lifestyle considerations such as vegetarianism and veganism. You can find protein packaged in ready-to-drink containers and in specialty powders designed to allow you to customize by adding in your own fluids (water, juice, or a variety of the “milk” products available on the market) and flavors. Then you just have to shake and drink. Protein is one smart, healthy, and convenient nutrient!
About Toni McKinnon
Toni is a licensed registered nurse, a certified clinical research professional, director of USANA’s Health and Science Education Department, creator of USANA’s Ask the Scientists and the weekly Essentials of Health eNewsletter, and oversees USANA’s scientific product information and clinical research studies. She is involved with the research and clinical testing of various innovative nutritional compounds used in USANA’s products and is a co-author of several scientific, peer-reviewed manuscripts discussing these findings.