People like to argue over fats and carbs, but just about everyone agrees that protein is essential. Protein is important for everything from healthy hair and nails to encouraging muscle growth and helping you to feel fuller longer by taking more time to digest than carbs. Multiple studies have shown that the three macronutrients (fats, carbs, and protein) affect our bodies in different ways, and that protein is by far the most filling of the three.
Protein helps you feel fuller with less food, partly because it helps reduce the level of a hormone in your body called ghrelin, which is responsible for hunger, and it also raises the level of the satiety hormone peptide YY, which makes you feel full. The effect is probably more powerful than you might think too – research involving overweight women who increased their intake of protein from 15 to 30 percent of total calories, ending up eating 441 fewer calories each day, though they hadn’t intentionally aimed to restrict them.
Those nagging hunger pangs are one of the primary reasons those who diet fall off track – it makes sense when you let yourself get too ravenous, decision making becomes more difficult. It’s hard to focus and you may even feel a little dizzy. When it gets to that point, all you want to do is feed that appetite, which means, you’ll most likely reach for any food that’s nearby, and often not the healthiest choice.
That’s why so many experts recommend increasing protein intake to help battle cravings and keep hunger pangs at bay. But how much protein should you eat? The Mayo Clinic recommends that about 20 percent of your daily calories come from protein, although there isn’t really just one ideal amount for all – if you work out longer and/or harder than most, such as training for a marathon, you’ll probably need to aim for a diet that’s made up of 25 percent protein.
For vegetarians, that can be a little more challenging. While just about everyone knows that foods like meat, poultry, and eggs are good sources of protein, there are lots of great vegetarian sources that will help you battle those hunger pangs, including the following.