Top 3 Reasons Protein Is NOT Overrated?
By Joan Kent, PhD
On a few separate occasions, I've heard people from various health occupations declare that protein is "overrated." It seemed to me those folks were thinking of "body" protein – for muscle building and the like – rather than brain protein. This brief post covers the top 3 reasons to take a different view of protein.
1. Protein provides amino acids.
Amino acids are the precursors of several key brain chemicals – dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Those neurochemicals affect the brain in a number of ways.
Dopamine and norepinephrine boost alertness and brain reward. Norepinephrine and serotonin improve mood and help fight depression and other "off" moods. All of them are brain feel-goods.
2. The female brain turns over serotonin at a faster rate than the male brain.
As a result, women need protein throughout the day. That provides the amino acid tryptophan in sufficient quantities to help the brain make enough serotonin and prevent various mood issues.
In addition, protein foods provide B vitamins. Vitamin B-6 helps to make serotonin synthesis (or re-synthesis) possible.
3. Protein is the macronutrient that offers the highest satiety.
Satiety is the feeling that we've had enough food and don't need to go back for more. One underlying reason for this is that protein triggers production of cholecystokinin (CCK). It's the most powerful satiety hormone the human body produces.
Yes, there are other reasons to eat protein, but let's stick with these 3 for this post.
The above reasons are compelling ones to keep eating true protein foods – fish, chicken, grass-fed beef, free-range organic eggs, shellfish, and more – throughout the day. If you're against eating animal products, by all means substitute high-quality protein powders.
Vegetable proteins are having their moment right now. But for some people, the amount of protein available in kale, for example, won't provide enough protein to make big changes in the brain. Vegetable protein powders, though, offer more.
Whatever form of protein you decide to use is up to you, of course. Just don't skimp on protein if you're seriously interested in alertness, better moods, and greater satiety.
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