By Kristin Yancy
For some women the idea of downing protein powder conjures up many a fond memory of scrawny college freshman trying desperately to fill out their fratty, sleeveless summer tanks. For others, a protein-rich diet is considered the exclusive territory of body builders and Olympic athletes. And while many women are doubtless aware that there are nutritional benefits in a diet that includes protein, it is likely that many of them would be surprised to learn just how much protein is recommended for a healthy, well rounded diet. It turns out, protein may be the best kept secret when it comes to weight loss, weight management, and building tone, lean muscle mass.
Foods high in protein take more effort to break down, turn into energy, and use, which means that the body begins burning more calories the moment protein enters the system. Because the process of utilizing protein takes an extended amount of time, your stomach feels fuller longer— keeping you satisfied between meals. The amino acids in protein help your body to build lean muscle mass; you will continue to burn these acids even while your body is inactive- a contrast to stored fat.
For an adult woman this recommended number usually lies somewhere around 46 grams of protein a day (for a highly active woman, this suggested intake would increase). According to an article published in Women’s Health Magazine citing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up to a “third of women between the ages of 20 and 40 don’t get their RDA [Recommended Dietary Allowance] of protein.” There are some obvious reasons why this might be true. Many of the best sources of protein require some cook time and are not always “lunchbox friendly.” These foods include, lean meats, like skinless chicken and turkey, eggs, fish, nuts, low fat dairy, soy, and beans. Though these foods are available as part of takeout and grab-and-go menus, they are often prepared in such a way that they become fatty, not friendly, options.
So if you don’t have time to grill yourself a salmon, complete with organic green vegetables and a serving of black beans, what can you eat to bolster your protein intake? Look for soy nuts or an assorted trail mix, and sneak in some hemp seeds if you’re feeling really healthy. Turkey jerky can be a good source of protein, or try some tofu in your salad if you’re on a veggies-only diet. Organic hard boiled eggs can be an easy addition to many meals or a snack on their own, and the organic grain fed to the hens that lay these eggs bolsters their vitamin E and omega-3 content. For a snack reminiscent of childhood days, try having low fat string cheese with an apple for a snack. And remember our body builders? A whey protein powder can be a part of your diet too- just add water for a low calorie solution to your protein woes. Add a regular exercise regimen and say hello to a slimmer, firmer you!