Protein and Fibre: Managing Appetite and Staying Fuller Longer

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This article was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Lactalis Canada, the makers of Astro Protein & Fibre Yogourt.

When it comes to managing an appetite and staying fuller for longer, two important components of a complete diet should be paid special attention – protein and fibre. Fibre and protein maintain satiety levels and keep us satisfied. Let’s take a closer look at how and why!

Protein

Proteins are truly the main building blocks of the body.  The very origin of the word — from the Greek protos, meaning “first” — reflects the top-shelf status of protein in human nutrition. They have a number of roles and functions, like being used to make muscle, tendons, organs, bone, skin, enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters.

At their base level, proteins consist of smaller molecules called amino acids, which link together similar to beads on a string. These linked amino acids form long protein chains known as polypeptides, which fold into different complex shapes. The shape of a protein is what determines its unique role and function in the body.

Our body is capable of producing some of these amino acids, but not others. The ones we cannot produce and instead need to consume through our diet are called essential amino acids. Generally, animal proteins such as poultry, pork, beef, fish, yogurt, and cheese provide all the essential amino acids that our body needs. Animal tissue is similar to our own tissue – so this makes sense! It’s also important to eat a variety of plant protein combinations, like beans and rice, peanut butter and toast, or lentils and walnuts. These can be consumed in the same meal, or in different meals throughout the day in order to create complete proteins.

These complete proteins contain all the different amino acids that we need to rebuild things in our bodies. This is incredibly important because our body is constantly rebuilding and breaking down tissue daily. Since we cannot store protein for later use, we must consume adequate amounts daily. Even for something as simple as a workout in the gym, we break down muscle tissue using resistance, and then we need complete proteins in order to build them back up stronger than before!

The Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein for adults is 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight (Pendick, 2019). That being said, some dieticians consider it necessary to get 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight throughout the day, due to the important role protein plays. Protein is much more satiating than carbohydrates or fat and can help regulate your appetite. For example, just think about which would keep you feeling full longer – an egg omelet, or a handful of shortbread cookies.

Since proteins are the building blocks of muscle and tissue in your body, ensuring you’re consuming a higher protein diet can also build and preserve muscle mass. As we age, our ability to effectively use protein diminishes somewhat, so having enough available is important.

Most people generally don’t need to track their protein intake – being mindful of simply eating quality protein sources with most of their meals is sufficient. The most direct sources are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. If you prefer to go the plant-based route, ensure you have a variety of protein choices throughout the day. Think oatmeal and almond butter at breakfast, and a smashed chickpea and avocado wrap for dinner!

Fibre

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate found in plant foods. The unique thing about fibre is that as humans, we lack the enzymes necessary to break it down in the body. In spite of this (or as a result of this, rather) fibre has a number of health benefits. There are two types of fibre – insoluble and soluble.

Insoluble fibre attracts water into your stool, making it softer and easier to pass with less strain on your bowel. Insoluble fibre can help promote bowel health and regularity. It also supports insulin sensitivity, and, like soluble fibre, may help reduce your risk for diabetes. Insoluble fibre rich foods include leafy greens, broccoli, celery, bran, nuts and seeds.

Soluble fibre is a little different. As soluble fibre dissolves, it creates a gel that may improve digestion in a number of ways – it also may reduce blood cholesterol and sugar. It helps your body improve blood glucose control, which can aid in reducing your risk for diabetes. Soluble fibre rich foods include apples, oatmeal, chia seeds, lentils, and barley. These foods keep you feeling full while delaying stomach emptying, which can help lower blood sugar levels post-meal.

An added benefit is that our good gut microbes residing in the colon thrive on soluble fibre! Those microbes feasting on the fibre create something called short chain fatty acids. These chains have been shown to reduce gut inflammation, and can even support functioning of the immune system.

All of these benefits beg the question – how much fibre should we be eating daily? The recommended amount of fibre for women is 25 grams daily, and 38 grams for men (Anderson, 2009). The reality is that most Canadians are only getting half that much.

How can we get the protein and fibre we need?

While getting the required amount of fibre and protein may seem daunting, it shouldn’t be. Registered Dietitian Amanda Li has a few easy recipes that can be used to pack a punch for both nutrients!

1. Yogourt parfait layered with berries and walnuts. For an added bonus, use New Astro Protein and Fibre yogourt because it contains 14 grams of protein and 4 grams of fibre per serving! Make this parfait the night before so you’re ready to fuel your body the next day!

2.  Edamame Stir-fry with broccoli and a soy ginger sesame vinaigrette. This is such a simple dish that can be made last minute when you’re hungry! All you need is a bag of frozen edamame, frozen broccoli and frozen gingerroot. Having ginger in the freezer means you can easily grate some on your salads or smoothies or stir-fries!

3. Amped Up Tuna Salad with finely chopped celery, scallions, pickles, toss in a bit of mayo and Dijon mustard with crumbled walnuts scattered on top! Elevate your can of tuna into something spectacular!


References

Anderson JW. (2009). Health benefits of dietary fiber. https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/67/4/188/1901012?login=true

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet. mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983

Pendick, D. 2019. How much protein do you need every day? https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096