Eating Protein Instead Of Sugar Helps Keep Us Awake And Alert, Say Experts
Are you suffering from a bout of afternoon sleepiness? Instead of reaching for the nearest sugary treat, opt for a protein-rich snack instead, say experts, because contrary to popular belief, protein stimulates the mind more than sugar.
A new study by the University of Cambridge has found that proteins help perk us up when our energy levels begin to dip.
Researchers from the Department of Pharmacology and Institute of Metabolic Science at Cambridge looked into how dietary nutrients influence and stimulate wakefulness. The study involved the use of lab rats who were introduced to different nutrients, including amino acids mixtures similar to egg whites, with their orexin cell activity being tracked throughout the process.
They found the orexin cells in the brain that regulate energy balance, wakefulness and reward were most stimulated with amino acids from protein.
"We found that the orx/hcrt cells are stimulated by nutritionally relevant mixtures of amino acids (AAs), both in brain slice patch-clamp experiments, and in c-Fos expression assays following central or peripheral administration of AAs to mice in vivo," says Denis Burdakov from the study.
Researchers also found that protein helps to regulate sleeping patterns, too. They discovered that proteins prevent glucose (sugar) from blocking the orexin cell responses, which causes after-meal sleepiness induced by sugar and carbohydrates. They suggest that these findings help explain why people feel less calm and more alert after eating foods with high protein levels.
Other health benefits of proteins hit the headline earlier this month after the news of the 1960s food campaign, 'Go to work on an egg', making a comeback.
If you want to boost your protein intake and keep you energy levels balanced, find out how with these tasty protein-rich snacks.
Spread peanut butter on wholemeal toast or crackers as a protein-rich snack. Peanuts are an excellent source of protein, with one tablespoon containing about four grams of protein.
A half cup of cottage cheese contains around 16 grams of protein, yet only has 102 calories and two grams of fat, as opposed to other cheese, where the protein benefits are counteracted by the high fat content. If you're not too keen on the cheesy taste, add a handful of berries or fruit to the bowl, or spread it on a wholemeal cracker for a savoury snack.
Egg white contains four grams of protein and is cholesterol-free. Whip up an egg white omelette for your lunch or some scrambled egg sandwiches for a tasty way to boost your protein intake.
Tuna fish is a great source of protein, with one tin can containing 25 grams of protein. Snack on it straight from the tin if you like it enough, or mix it with sweetcorn and a tiny bit of low-fat mayonaise to make a spread that you can have with pitta bread or crackers.
Although lentils can taste a little bland on their own, they can be easily added to your lunchtime salad or into a hearty homemade soup. Lentils are a great source of protein and an easy way to boost your protein levels. One cup of lentils equals to around 18 grams of protein.
A single cup of quinoa contains around 18g of protein and it can be easily added to homemade granola bars or cookies if you fancied a sweeter snack.
Beans contain a high level of protein and can be eaten in all different ways. Why not make a bean dip by blending different types together mixed with a little bit of olive oil? Or add them to a homemade soup and sprinkle them on your lunchtime salad.
A handful of raw, unsalted nuts, like almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts are great snacks to keep handy throughout the day. You only need a small handful for your daily allowance on these, but they are high in fiber, protein, and "good" fats.