Are you trying to lose weight? Want to feel more energetic throughout the day? It may be as simple as adding more protein to your breakfast.
A recent study indicates that eating a nutritious breakfast, especially one high in protein, makes you feel fuller and reduces hunger throughout the day. In fact, getting extra protein at breakfast actually decreases the brain signals controlling food motivation and reward-driven eating behavior. This means your morning protein can help you control your appetite.
Eating a little extra protein can also help you maintain blood sugar levels and even improve your mood. The key is to eat healthy proteins for breakfast, and then to continue eating proteins throughout your day.
What Is Protein?
Proteins are large molecules composed of smaller units called amino acids. They help build the structure of cells, support growth and repair, and provide dietary energy. Next to water, protein is the most abundant substance in our bodies. Protein is necessary for the immune system to function properly. It is also involved in the formation of hair and nails, and even in the chemical changes that control bodily functions. When the body doesn't get enough protein, it's more susceptible to allergies, infection, and disease.
There are 20 amino acids that make up the proteins in the body, and nine of these are considered "essential" amino acids. The body can't produce sufficient quantities of essential amino acids to meet its needs. This means we must get these nine amino acids through our food. A traditional Indian diet does not contain much of animal proteins as many Indian regions still do not eat eggs, meat etc., high protein foods that are commonly eaten in Western countries. However, an Indian diet still has adequate level of proteins mainly obtained from dairy and plant based foods such as chickpeas, lentils and nuts.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The average adult needs 8 grams of protein per 9 kg of body weight. This means that most adults need 45 to 70 grams of protein every day.
The key is not necessarily to eat more protein, but to choose healthy protein options for every meal and snack. A high-protein diet that contains too much saturated fat may cause more harm than good. On the other hand, eating a variety of lean proteins can reduce the risk of disease and help you feel full and satisfied.
Protein at Breakfast Decreases Hunger Throughout the Day
In a study conducted at the University of Missouri, USA, researchers observed three groups of teenagers: those who regularly skipped breakfast, those who consumed 500-calorie breakfast meals containing cereal and milk, and those who ate higher protein meals such as Belgian waffles (a type of cake eaten in US), syrup, and yogurt.
Teenagers who ate breakfast felt less hunger throughout the morning than those who skipped the meal. But the teenagers who ate the higher protein breakfast had even greater changes in appetite and satiety.
"Incorporating a healthy breakfast containing protein-rich foods can be a simple strategy for people to stay satisfied longer, and therefore, be less prone to snacking," said Heather Leidy, lead author of the study. It is also noted that protein helps dieters feel full longer, which may help them reach their weight-loss goals.
The Other Health Benefits of Protein
Another recent study conducted at Johns Hopkins University, USA revealed that a diet in which approximately a quarter of the calories came from lean protein sources helped reduce blood pressure. The diet also helped lower levels of LDL, the "bad" form of cholesterol, and reduced triglycerides more effectively than a high-carbohydrate diet.
Similarly, another study showed that people who consumed a high-protein snack before breakfast had blood sugar levels 40 percent lower than those who didn't. This appears to indicate that a high-protein breakfast could help people with diabetes to manage their symptoms.
What gives protein these powers? Protein-rich foods take more work for your digestive system to break down, so they require more calories for processing. High-protein meals also take longer to leave your stomach, keeping you feeling full for longer.
Healthy Protein Options for Breakfast
If you want to add extra protein to your breakfast tomorrow morning, consider trying a few of these healthy suggestions:
- Two eggs, cooked how you like them
- A cup of cottage cheese
- A chicken breast sandwich with low-fat cheese
- Peanut butter on whole-wheat toast
- Protein smoothie: mix a cup of chopped apples, a few slices of banana, a scoop of protein powder, some ice and a cup of milk
- One cup of yogurt
- Oatmeal with low-fat milk, one small chopped apple, and two tablespoons of chopped walnuts
- A cup of whole wheat daliya with veggies and a glass of low-fat milk
- Two-to-three hard boiled eggs with whole wheat toast and a piece of fruit
- A whole wheat vegetable sandwich with low fat cheese and a glass of milk
- A bowl of whole-grain rice with some honey, raisins, and a cut-up apple.
HealthAhead Hint: Take the First Step
Wouldn't it be nice to spend your morning feeling energized instead of hungry? Adding protein to your breakfast will help kick-start your day and keep you feeling satisfied for longer. Take the first step by choosing a few of your favorite high protein items and create a meal plan for this week. Replace your usual breakfast foods with protein options, and pay attention to how you feel throughout the day. By the end of the week, you might decide to make your protein-packed breakfast permanent!