By now, all of us are familiar with the word protein and the health benefits associated with it. Protein is one of the few essential nutrients that our body requires.
Our body’s building blocks for muscles, enzymes, skin, and hormones, as well as our body tissues, relies on the amount of protein that our body has. Having enough protein would also contribute to a healthy metabolism as well as our body’s ability to burn fat.
Most of us know that protein is mostly found in food. While people in developed countries rarely get affected by a lack of protein, there is still a chance that some may be at risk.
When our body lacks protein, a series of health problems can occur as a result of changes in the body. In this article, we examine the problems experienced when we do not consume enough protein.
What is Protein Deficiency and Why is Protein Important?
Our bodies require a certain level of protein to function normally. When the standard protein requirement is not met, it means that our bodies are deficient.
Globally, it is estimated that around one billion individuals suffer from protein inadequacy and develop health problems as a result of it. Protein deficiency is a problem that is commonly seen in developing countries, particularly Central Africa and even South Asia. It is because famine levels in these countries are so high, that children do not get enough protein sources in their diet.
While this holds true, some individuals in developed countries may also be at risk. Protein deficiencies are common in people who do not follow a balanced diet, patients with severe medical problems, and certain older people. Other groups of people who might also be at risk of protein deficiency are those who follow a special diet like vegans and vegetarians.
A severe form of protein deficiency that is common in poverty-stricken countries is called kwashiorkor. When the body does not have enough protein, a series of health problems would usually occur often developing into serious medical issues.
Six signs that your body is low on protein
When our body is low on protein, health problems may develop which can eventually lead to serious medical issues.
Even if protein levels are marginal, some of the symptoms of deficiency can also occur. Some of these symptoms are even associated with kwashiorkor.
1. Slow recovery from workout injuries
Since protein is essentially important for our muscles’ healthy development. However, when we do not have enough protein in our body, we risk ourselves to muscle loss and weakened bones. Protein is also needed to help our bodies build new tissues and cells for healthy immunity. It means that when our bodies become injured, or bones get fractured, the healing process becomes excruciatingly slow. It is because protein is required for optimal absorption of calcium as well as healthy bone metabolism. Many studies even reveal that adults with significant bone loss are because of low protein intake.
2. Feeling hungry all the time
You may notice that the more meat you eat, the more full you feel. It is because meat is high in proteins, and proteins take a longer time to digest in our bodies than most nutrients. When protein is low, and carbs and fat are high, our bodies will always feel hungry and tend to crave for sugary snacks more often. As a result, we develop a resistance to insulin which would eventually develop to diabetes.
3. Having difficulty sleeping
Since protein helps to even out our blood sugar levels, a lack of it can cause our blood sugar to become unstable. It becomes increasingly difficult to sleep properly at night when this happens thus leading to insomnia. Essentially, the role of protein in our body is it produces compounds that help slow down sugar absorption from the food we eat.
4. Cholesterol levels become alarmingly high
When your diet is composed of mostly highly processed or refined and sugary foods and low in protein, it can also cause an increase in cholesterol and triglycerides. As a result, our bodies will be at risk of inflammation as well as imbalances of our hormones. A rise in cholesterol levels can often lead to serious medical problems like heart disease and stroke.
5. Constantly experiencing brain fog
Our brain would function normally if there is enough protein in our body. Protein is also important when it comes to having a healthy neurological system. When protein is deficient, neurotransmitters that are responsible for retaining new information and concentration becomes insufficient making it easy for us to become affected with brain fog. Having enough protein along with a balanced diet produces amino acids that help boost our brain’s neurotransmitters for better concentration, motor, and learning skills.
6. Develop skin, hair, and nail problems
Some of the most visible symptoms of protein deficiency are when we experience problems in achieving healthy skin, hair, and nails. It is because these parts of our body rely heavily on protein for growth as it is made largely out of protein. These problems would appear in the form of hair thinning and brittle nails.
How much protein do we need?
Though protein is necessary for our health, every person’s protein requirement is not the same. Certain factors like weight, age, physical activity, and muscle mass would depend on how much protein is required by the body.
Scientists have estimated that around 0.4 grams of protein for every pound of the body’s weight are needed according to the recommended daily allowance (RDA). To be specific, an average adult weighing 75 kg would require 66 grams of protein daily.
Foods that are rich sources of protein include meat, eggs, fish, dairy, and legumes.
For vegetarians and vegans, they can usually get their protein from certain vegetables like kale, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and spinach. Since they can only eat plant-based protein, some nuts and seeds also contain a sufficient amount of protein that they need to maintain optimum health. Other options would be to take supplements that contain the correct protein requirement.
Protein is an essential nutrient needed by our body to function normally. To prevent protein deficiency problems, it is important to have a diet that’s protein-rich daily.
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