When it comes to the main food groups, we’re all familiar with carbohydrates and with fats – every fad diet from here until the 1980s has loved one and demonised the other: high fat/low carb! Low fat/high carb! And repeat forever. We may have learned about it from societal trends, but hey, at least we learned about it. However, when it comes to protein, many of us are still in the dark. A recent study by Tasti, who has recently introduced Protein+ Probiotics – its first protein and probiotic snack bar – reveals 78% of Kiwis are unsure about how much protein they should be having each day.
What is it, where do we get it from, and why is it important?
“Protein provides the building blocks for our muscular skeletal system,” says nutritionist Dr Mikki Williden. “Protein helps regulate appetite and hunger, making you less hungry. It also helps you regulate blood sugar so you’re less hangry and irritable, so you can focus and concentrate. A protein diet can smooth out our energy levels, because they’re intricately tied to our blood sugar levels, so the more we can regulate our blood sugar, the better we can regulate our energy.”
There are two reasons why Dr Mikki thinks protein is trickier to include within our diet than other nutrients. Number one? “From an emotional level, protein quite often has a face: a lamb, a cow, a chicken, so people often try and avoid protein-rich foods because of that ethical kind of association.” And the second point? “People don’t think proteins are convenient. You can pick carbs up from a petrol station, but actually getting protein is much more challenging for people, which is why so many of us really struggle to meet our protein requirements.”
This is super unfortunate, because a protein-rich snack can be the secret weapon to power you through your afternoon. An easy snack like chips or a biscuit are quick to burn and will send your blood sugar off, meaning you burn through energy faster and get hungrier faster, and you’re more likely to need another snack to keep you going. Now, we love a snack, but when you’re rushing around or trying to find something to help your 3pm afternoon slump, you want something efficient AND delicious. Snack bars are a great way of getting a handy nutritional hit in a way that’s easier to manage than trying to whip up a rib eye steak as you dash between meetings.
For this reason of combining convenience with meeting nutritional needs, Tasti’s brand new on-the-go snack, Protein+ Probiotics bars- contain a natural source of protein, fibre, and selected superfood ingredients. With 25% plant protein per serve, the Protein+ Probiotics bars are light and crispy and help you to feel fuller for longer.
The bars also deliver an extra nutritional boost because they contain probiotics as well.
Plant-based proteins are less accessible for the body to absorb, so by combining them with probiotics to improve gut health, the protein is more easily used by the body. The gut microbiome – and the effect of probiotics – is something that science is really starting to investigate, Dr Mikki says.
“There are thousands more academic papers than what there were even five years ago. Overall, health is largely a function of gut health – it affects inflammation and our immune system. People say ‘all chronic disease begins in the gut,’ so from that particular perspective, it’s important for people to understand what that means for them.”
Probiotics are across-the-board helpful for everyone, as looking after the microbiome can protect our overall health. But a lack of protein in a balanced diet can be a particular problem for women, who are “consistently likely to under eat it,” Dr Mikki says. “Women are less likely to sit down to a 200g steak than men, but they need it just as much as a man does in terms of muscular skeletal health. I’m constantly telling my female clients to eat more protein.”
Dr Mikki also says that sensible snacking and, particularly high-protein snacks, can really help with the mad dash that comes with this time of year. She cautions against restricting calories in an attempt to get into a summer body, noting that not only is crash-dieting more likely to end up causing havoc on your blood sugar and inevitably leading to binge-eating, but it also creates an unhealthy relationship with food. Food is to be enjoyed and not feared she says.
“People will stress themselves out because they’re not eating perfectly, there needs to be a middle ground. Don’t get so wrapped up in the confusing messages that you get overwhelmed. Be your own investigator – when you’re eating something, how does it make you feel?”
Tasti has been a leader in developing innovative protein products since it first introduced Protein Nut bars to New Zealanders in 2013. The new Protein+ Probiotics snack bars are perfect for those in active jobs, doing intense exercise, or looking for a high-energy protein boost.
This is the first time Tasti has introduced probiotics to its protein bars. The added benefit of probiotics helps to optimise digestive and gut health. Tasti Protein+ Probiotics bars are available in three flavours: Manuka Honey + Almond, Mango + Coconut, and Red Berries. Tasti Protein+ Probiotics bars are currently available at New World and Pak N Save stores in the North Island, and are now available nationwide in Countdown stores.