If you're not getting enough protein in your diet, you can experience symptoms such as hair loss or a craving for salty and sweet foods. But what can you do to ensure that you get enough protein in your diet?
The symptoms of protein deficiency
If you're experiencing some of the symptoms below, you may be suffering from a protein deficiency.
Brain fog – Brain fog can indicate protein deficiency. This type of cognitive dysfunction involves the inability to focus, a lack of mental clarity, memory problems, and poor concentration. Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are made up of proteins, and a protein deficiency can cause brain fog.
Craving salty or sweet foods – May Simpkin, a leading nutritionist, says that protein helps slow down the release of sugars into the bloodstream, which ensures that blood sugars are balanced. If you're following a low-protein, high-carb diet, sugars are released quickly into your bloodstream. As the insulin is released to remove these sugars, you will start to crave salty or sweet foods once your blood sugars quickly drop.
Flabby muscles – When a person is protein-deficient, their body will start to break down muscle to meet its needs. The effect is more noticeable in people who frequently exercise since their body will use muscle as fuel, which can cause reduced muscle mass, weak joint support, and weakened muscle tone. If you don't consume enough protein, it will take your body longer to recover from an injury. You may also experience increased muscle and joint aches.
Hair loss – Protein deficiency can also make your hair and nails look dull. Lackluster or thinning hair, brittle or weak nails and nail ridges, and dry or flaky skin are the major indicators of a lack of protein. These symptoms occur when your body can't efficiently replenish cells to replace dead cells.
Poor immune health – If you're always sick, your immune health may be suffering because you're not getting enough protein in your diet. Your immune cells are made up of protein, and if you're deficient, your immune cells can't repair and multiply fast enough to fight bugs and germs.
Poor sleep – When you're protein deficient, your hormone production is compromised and this can result in imbalances that can affect sleep quality and disrupt a night’s sleep.
Stress – When your body releases stress hormones, this may increase muscle and tissue breakdown. Both physical stress (from over-exercising) or emotional stress can trigger the release of these hormones.
Why do you need protein in your diet?
You need to include enough protein in your diet because it is a major component of every cell in your body. This crucial building block also makes up your hair, skin, nails, muscle, and cartilage.
The body also needs protein so it can produce enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters, which are all required so your body can function normally.
Per government guidelines, an average person's protein consumption should be 0.8 grams (g) per kilogram (kg) of body weight. For the average sedentary woman, this is equivalent to 46 g of protein per day, or 56 g for men.
What kinds of food contain protein?
If you eat meat, you can get protein from the following sources:
If you're a vegetarian, you can get protein from eggs, dairy, and whole grains. Pescatarians can also get protein from fish.
Protein sources for vegans include beans or pulses (e.g., chickpeas, lentils, and soybeans), grains, soy foods, and whole grains (e.g., brown rice and quinoa). Add nuts and seeds with amino acids and essential fatty acids that are necessary for optimal health.
Consume protein-rich foods daily and spread them out throughout a day to effectively build muscle. Since protein is a complex nutrient, it requires more energy to break down, unlike carbohydrates. Eating protein boosts your metabolic, which can promote weight loss.
If you're trying to lose weight, consuming healthy foods that contain protein can also curb cravings, make you feel fuller for longer, and reduce your appetite.
You can read more articles about healthy and natural foods that are rich in protein at Health.news.