Although with the current dietary trends leaning heavily toward consuming large amounts of protein, still many Americans are not getting enough during the day—particularly vegetarians or those who skip meals or restrict their diets significantly.
Between huge portion sizes and fads like the Paleo Diet many are getting more than their fair share. But, for those not consuming enough protein, there can be subsequent health problems.
Dawn Jackson Blatner a registered dietician and the author of The Flexitarian Diet, explains "These days, most of the hot fad diets are very pro-protein." She states that it can be difficult to determine the “right” amount, because it varies significantly for different people, based on their body weight, activity level and other factors.
Here are five ways that you may be able to tell that you are not getting enough protein in your diet:
1. Huge Sweet Tooth
When you crave sweets, you may be missing out on getting enough protein. When you have the sensation of never quite feeling full, your body begins to crave sugar because of the drop in blood sugar, it is experiencing as a result of not getting enough protein. Yes, candy might be a quick fix, but, you are probably lacking protein and might be able to take in fewer calories and prevent a vicious cycle of blood sugar spikes and drops by adding protein to your diet.
2. Difficulty Focusing
When your brain feels like there is a cloud in there, and you are having difficulty focusing, you may be lacking protein. This is also related to the spikes and drops in blood sugar described above. When you get enough protein, your body is able to release a steady stream of carbohydrates into your system, allowing you to maintain a consistent energy level. By avoiding protein, you put yourself at risk for the short bursts of blood sugar that accompany frequent snacking on low protein, high carb foods.
3. Hair Loss
Because protein is required for all of your cells to function properly, including your hair follicles, hair loss can be a sign of low protein. If you notice that you are shedding large amounts of hair, or that your hair seems to be thinning, take in a little more protein and this may help.
4. Generalized Weakness
Protein is essential for building muscles and helping them function well. If you are not getting enough protein, your muscles may be breaking down and you feel weak as a result. If your exercise routine is getting tougher to get through because you feel weak, try adding some protein to your diet.
5. Frequent Illness
According to Blatner, "Protein is needed to build all the compounds in our immune systems." If you find that you are frequently falling ill, for no apparent reason, you may be lacking protein. Catching more than your fair share of common colds may be a sign. So is getting too many hangnails or cracking skin on the fingers—protein is required to keep skin strong.
These are signs of not enough protein, but you may be experiencing other underlying conditions as well, and consulting your doctor can help sort it out.
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