You don’t have to go full Paleo to get excited about the health benefits of protein. The fact is, protein is a critical part of every single diet, whether you’re gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, raw, or low-carb.

Everyone needs protein and a significant amount of it every day, particularly if you’re a fitness enthusiast, expecting mother, or young child.

Fortunately, protein comes in all shapes, flavors, textures, and varieties. So no matter what your diet preferences are, there are protein sources that are just right. From beans to nuts, seeds, , avocados, and even leafy greens like kale, all contain healthy protein sources. Of course, so do animal products from eggs and fish to meats and dairy products. But what exactly does protein do for you?

Here are seven health benefits of protein:

  1. Healthy brain function. We associate protein with muscle mass and strong bodies, but it’s most useful in keeping our brains functioning and healthy.
  1. Aids in sleep. If you toss and turn all night, a lack of protein may be to blame. (Did you know it’s why warm milk before bed has been a longstanding home remedy?)
  1. It builds muscle. This is key whether you hit the gym on the reg or not. Muscles keep our bodies moving and working; we all need muscle mass and we all need protein to get it.
  1. It may help with weight loss goals. Weight loss is typically the result of several different factors working all together: staying active, staying hydrated, enough sleep. Making sure you have enough protein can help your body stay fueled for workouts and, as noted above, increase your muscle mass, which will hopefully edge out that excess fat. 
  1. For women, this one is especially important. Protein aids with bone density, a key factor in fighting off osteoporosis. It also helps in strong teeth that can resist decay. 
  1. Speeds healing. Nicks, cuts, or bruises that take forever to heal may be the result of not enough protein. Protein helps tissue and cartilage to heal faster. 
  1. A longer life? While there are many factors that play a role in one’s lifespan, ensuring enough protein is in your diet each day plays a crucial role in fighting off diseases that may shorten your life.

 image: abodyftyh

The protein shake comes in many varieties, from the kind you buy pre-blended or made to order at a smoothie bar, to your favorite homemade protein shake recipe you keep perfecting and tweaking with seasonal fruits and veggies. But is the shake recipe as important as when you drink it?

According to experts, protein shakes do more than just satisfy your hunger—they deliver amino acids to your muscle cells, which kickstart your body’s process of muscle protein synthesis, which basically repairs the muscle proteins, helping to build bigger and stronger muscle mass. This is an important part of the workout recovery process, therefore, when you consume your protein shake really matters.

A macronutrient, protein does our busy bodies good when it’s always in our system. In other words: consume protein with every meal, even snacks.

When it comes to those protein shakes, the optimal time may actually vary depending on your most recent meal or physical activity. If, say, you haven’t eaten in a few hours, you run the risk of the body breaking down muscle to fuel a workout. So, this would be an optimal time for a pre-workout protein-rich shake or smoothie. Plain and simple, it will prevent muscle protein breakdown during your workout.

However, endurance athletes or those training more than an hour who have recently eaten (within the last 90 minutes), may want to boost with a protein shake again just before the workout. Long workouts will burn off that hour-ago meal pretty quickly, so give yourself a boost before—or even during—your extended workout.

If you adequately fueled with a well-rounded meal before your workout and aren’t planning to eat within the next 2-3 hours after, go for the protein shake then to keep the amino acids in your system and support the muscle protein synthesis.

image: jules:stonesoup

This is the gluten-free pizza crust recipe of your dreams. No, really. It’s made with wholesome ingredients without the gluten. And it’s got another gorgeously good for you benefit: It gets a boost of protein from organic whey protein powder. And, yes, it’s technically still pizza—the ooey, gooey kind you can get all giddy and drooly over.

We add our mustHave organic whey protein, which gives the crust a sweet and chewy texture, but you can use any whey protein powder or simply add more flour if you don’t want to add protein to your crust.

Ingredients

1¼ cup almond flour
¼ cup whey protein powder
4 tablespoons Psyllium husk powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for brushing
(Toppings of your choice)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

 Combine all of the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until blended.

Add the eggs and olive oil and mix until well combined. Add the boiling water and mix until dough thickens and start to stick together and forms a ball. Place the dough on a well-greased baking sheet.

Use a rolling pin or your hands to spread the dough into a 16-inch round.

Place the crust in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove crust from oven and brush with olive oil and return to oven. Turn the oven to broil and let the crust cook for 3-5 minutes, or until crust is crisp. Pay special attention to prevent it from burning.

Remove from oven (but leave oven on) and let cool a few minutes before adding your toppings. Return to oven and broil another 5-10 minutes until ready.

To make this pizza crust completely vegan: Swap whey protein with a vegan protein such as hemp or pea protein. Replace eggs with flax eggs – 4 tablespoons ground flax seeds soaked in ½ cup warm water. And replace cheese with nutritional yeast.

Image: veganbaking.net

Whey protein is one of the leading protein choices for athletes everywhere. When lean, strong muscles are the goal, whether it’s full-on cardio, weights, or some high intensity interval training, we all want to gain muscle, shred the fat, and feel our very best. But if we’re not properly balancing our workouts with protein, they can be excruciating and even fruitless.

We hear it time and again that we need to fuel our bodies both before—and after—every workout. While protein-rich carbs can get us through our workouts (think whole grains like oats), we really need our protein fix after our workout. Otherwise, we risk muscle fatigue or a failed post workout recovery. Why put yourself through the torture of a workout if you’re not going to properly gain every last morsel of benefit? No gym membership is worth that! 

Exactly. 

That’s why so many fitness experts turn to whey protein. While normal dairy protein (casein) can take seven hours to be absorbed by the body, whey protein powder can be absorbed in 20-30 minutes. That’s quite a difference! And that short window allows your muscles to gain all the benefits of the whey protein, which can drastically speed your muscle recovery and help you to see those results. Fast. 

But all whey protein powders aren’t equal. In fact, most of them are quite awful—sourced from conventional dairy products that can be loaded with antibiotics, growth hormones, and genetically modified livestock feed (corn and soy). Organic whey protein powder, like our own mustHave protein is small-batch produced, coming from farmers we know and trust. We quality test every batch of protein to make sure it meets our high standards for quality and flavor. And you can taste the difference—no chemical taste, just a natural sweetness and creamy goodness.

For best results, mix a whey protein with a fast-absorbing carbohydrate (such as a banana or other fruit) in a 2:1 ratio.

Image: Lorena Cupcake 

 

 

There’s something about weekend mornings that just screams pancakes. They’re so fun and yummy and indulgent. They remind us the weekend is really here and we can sit back, relax, and eat until our pants pop. But with those luscious pancakes comes the guilt of empty calories. Not any more!

This pancake recipe is loaded with good-for-you added protein that will help your body to feel stronger after that heavy breakfast. It’s also a great way to help make sure kids get enough protein in their diet too.

We use our own mustHave organic whey protein powder in this recipe, but you can sub-in and protein powder of your choosing. However, a protein like whey is ideal because it also lends a light and creamy flavor and texture. Some protein powders can be chalky and not all that delicious. So make sure you’re comfortable with the flavor profile of your protein powder.

This recipe also uses buckwheat flour, which is naturally gluten-free. It makes for a very fluffy and delicious pancake, but you can also use traditional unbleached four or whole wheat.

Makes about 12 pancakes

Ingredients

2 cups buckwheat flour
2 scoops organic protein powder
2 tablespoons ground flax seed soaked in ¼ cup warm water for 5-10 minutes
1 teaspoon baking powder
21/2 cups nondairy milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus more for cooking
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Directions

In a large mixing bowl add all dry ingredients and stir well. In a separate bowl mix together flax seeds, vanilla, oil and milk. Mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until uniform. Add more milk if needed.

Heat a large skillet or griddle to medium-high. Pour in enough oil to cover completely but not so much that puddles of oil form (you can also coat with a cooking spray oil).

Ladle out ¼ cup rounds of batter and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Then flip gently with a spatula and cook 2-3 minutes on other side.

Garnish with fresh fruit and maple syrup.

Image: britt and the bees 

If you spent a lot of time on the couch in your teens and twenties instead of exercising, it may spell trouble later in life with cognitive function, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, finds new research.

As we age, we tend to get more concerned about our health, often adopting regular fitness routines by our thirties or forties. But what about those blissful days of our youth? Can we really afford to waste them lazing away?

New research suggests no. “Even early and mid-adulthood may be critical periods for promotion of physical activity” in order to help keep our brains sharp well into old age said lead researcher Tina Hoang in a news release from the Alzheimer’s Association.

While previous research points to the benefits of exercise later in life to ward off mental decline and dementia-related to Alzheimer’s disease, this new research says the effects of exercise in early adulthood later in life aren’t as well understood.

The new research looked at more than 3,200 adults between the ages of 18 to 30, specifically their activity levels and their television viewing habits over a 25-year period.

The researchers found that people who had long-term low physical activity and those who had long-term high television viewing patterns scored worse on the cognitive tests than those who were more active and viewed television less frequently.

While the researchers say they couldn’t prove cause-and-effect, the did note that “sedentary behaviors, like TV viewing, could be especially relevant for future generations of adults due to the growing use of screen-based technologies.” And, Hoang added that, “because research indicates that Alzheimer’s and other dementias develop over several decades, increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior beginning in early adulthood may have a significant public health impact.”

Experts say the results aren’t surprising and that developing physical fitness habits at an early age can ensure healthier habits well into adulthood.

Image: rebeccahidalgo

How much you exercise may help to reduce your risk of developing cancer, and now there’s a significant number: 5 hours per week.

While more than 100 studies have already shown a connection between physical activity and lowering the risk of breast cancer, this new research looked at the long-term impact more frequent exercise has on the risk.

Leading the research was Christine Friedenreich, scientific leader of cancer epidemiology and prevention research at Alberta Health Services. Friedenreich and her team looked at the common recommendation of 150 minutes of exercise per week to reduce the cancer risk, and doubled it, seeing what would happen to women who exercised 5 hours (300 minutes) per week.

Published in the journal JAMA Oncology, Friedenreich found that of the 384 non-active women past menopause of varying weights, “those women randomly assigned to exercise for 300 minutes a week over the year-long study lost more body fat than those who were active for 150 minutes each week,” reports Time Magazine. “The women didn’t change their diet or any other aspect of their lives; they just exercised their allotted amount, by walking, running, cycling or using an elliptical machine or treadmill.”

Those women shed about 2.2 pounds more body fat than the less active group, losing abdominal fat in particular, with a larger dip in the waist to hip ratio.

While the overall weight loss was about the same between the two groups, the findings suggest that the more physical activity poses significant benefits for reducing the cancer risk.

“[F]or cancer prevention, we may need to exercise at higher volumes,” says Friedenreich. “So yes, doing 150 minutes of activity a week is good, but if you can do more, then from a cancer prevention perspective, 300 minutes is better.”

Fatty tissue serves of the primary source for hormones connected with post-menopausal breast cancer and also works to regulate the body’s immune and inflammatory responses.

“I’m sure that doctors are advising their patients to be more physically active to prevent heart disease or diabetes,” says Friedenreich. “So we’d like to add cancer to that list of chronic diseases that exercise can potentially prevent or help to lower the risk.”

 image: plantronicsgermany

 

 

Some proteins really are better than others. When looking for the best protein sources, these foods are your best bet:

1. Eggs: The egg is experiencing a renaissance these days, especially with so many small-scale farms in operation delivering healthy, clean egg products. One medium-sized egg can contain six grams of protein and all 20 amino acids in a truly digestible form. The egg is quick and versatile too, giving you so many ways to enjoy this food.

2. Nuts: Also back on the “it’s actually good for you” menu are nuts of all kinds. They’re full of healthy saturated fats and they also pack in the protein, with a one-cup serving of most nuts providing about five grams of protein. They too are versatile and so delicious!

3. Clean Protein Powders: While many protein powders on the market are loaded with hard-to-pronounce ingredients that hardly do anything good for your body, clean proteins like our mustHave protein made from small-batch organic whey are incredibly body friendly. Whey is easily digestible and filled with pure dairy protein from organically raised cows. When looking for protein powders, look for organic single or low-ingredient proteins such as pure hemp seed protein or pea protein to ensure a high quality digestible product.

4. Whole grains: You really can’t go wrong with whole grains like barley, kamut, quinoa or brown rice. Even whole wheat offers a hefty serving of protein. Another bonus: whole grains are also loaded with amino acids and fiber, making them an excellent diet addition.

5. Lean Meats and Fish: When shopping for animal products, you always want to look for pasture-raised and grass-fed organic meat and chicken to ensure a high quality product. For fish, look for wild-caught animals that weren’t raised on fish farm pellet diets.

6. Beans: Like whole grains and nuts, the mighty bean does double duty as a high-quality protein source and an important fiber-rich food. Beans can be prepared so many ways in so many different cuisine styles. You’ll never get bored! Skip the canned beans though and opt for whole dried beans. Soak them in water overnight before cooking.

7. Yogurt: When it comes to dairy products, not all are created equal. But yogurt can contain a good amount of protein especially because it combines casein and whey. Look for organic Greek style yogurts and avoid those excessively sweetened.

 Image: briannalehman

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on legislation that would prevent sates from labeling genetically modified foods (H.R. 1599). Better known as the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know), if passed, the legislation would also restrict the Food and Drug Administration’s ability to mandate a national labeling program for genetically modified foods—something 64 countries already do. 

The bill has already passed through a House committee, even though it’s the source of widespread opposition, particularly among Democrats and consumer advocacy groups.

"Consumers increasingly want to know more about where their food comes from and how it is produced," Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, told USA Today about the voluntary approach. This bill "satisfies that demand while also recognizing what we know about the safety of the food that our farmers produce."

If passed, the House bill would allow companies to instead label their products as GMO-free if they qualify, by applying to the Agriculture Department, which is now offering a certification process similar to the popular "USDA organic" labeling initiative. “The Food and Drug Administration would then review the safety of a product before it enters the marketplace, putting into law a process that is currently voluntary but widely used by food companies,” reports USA Today.

But that’s not enough to satisfy public safety groups or concerned consumers who insist a right to know is critical. "It doesn't matter if you think GMOs are terrific or whether you hate them, I think we all should be able to agree that the American people ought to get what they want, to know what is in their food," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. "It makes me nervous when I hear from some in the industry who keep pushing back against labeling. It's like, what are they trying to hide?"

You can call or email your representatives in Congress TODAY to let them know you oppose the DARK Act!  

Image via MillionsAgainstMonsanto

We need protein? But how much protein is ideal?

If you’re like most people, you may glance at the nutrition profile of your food before consuming it, but you probably don’t bring a calculator to every meal negotiating not only your total calories, but the micro- and macro-nutrients present in each meal.

Among the more critical macronutrients in our diet is protein. It’s the building blocks of our bodies, quite literally. Protein makes our bones, our hair, blood, connective tissue, enzymes, antibodies and more.

Throughout our lives, we’ll need different amounts of protein. And lifestyle can impact that too—if you’re a serious athlete, you may need even more protein than usual, especially if you’re training, say for a triathlon. But generally speaking the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For the average-sized adult, that’s anywhere from 50-60 grams of protein per day.

Of course, as our bodies are not just numbers on a scale, protein intake isn’t just a matter of measuring the right amount. In fact, according to Harvard University, some science suggests we may need even double the RDA. “Based on the totality of the research presented [at The Protein Summit]…taking in up to twice the RDA of protein ‘is a safe and good range to aim for. ’This equates roughly to 15% to 25% of total daily calories, although it could be above or below this range depending on your age, sex, and activity level.”

Some diets like the paleo diet adhere to high levels of protein and fat while strictly limiting carbohydrates. And experts warn that increasing protein doesn’t equate to more burgers or bacon. While animal products are a primary source of protein, many plant foods contain healthy proteins too: think beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and even some fruits, such as the avocado.

The one key to protein intake all experts agree on is making sure it’s quality food sources—whole foods, not processed junk foods. If your diet is well balanced with a focus on whole foods, you’ll feel good enough to know that your diet isn’t lacking in anything.

 image: sombilon photo

 

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