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Protein: it's Good for Us (sandwich image)

Protein: It’s Good for Us, We Need It, We Want It

For decades nutrition experts have exhorted the American public to follow a healthier diet and pointed to dire consequences if their warning was not heeded. These messages mostly fell on deaf ears.

Now in 2014, it seems everyone has seen the light and is taking a harder look at their food and what impact it has on their bodies. The resulting recognition of high protein foods as critical to improving vitality and well-being has made them one of the most sought-after nutritional choices among American consumers. The International Food Information Council Foundation says a full 57 percent of Americans actively try to consume more protein.

Some consumers and researchers are concentrating specifically on the morning meal, as the right breakfast foods can increase the ability to concentrate, boost energy and strength, and even help maintain a healthy weight, with effects that last all day long.

Study after study published in academic journals including the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Obesity Research and The FASEB Journal have found that beginning a day with high-quality protein like eggs offers many benefits over high-carb breakfasts. University of Missouri researchers found that high-protein breakfasts helped participants feel satiated longer compared to others who ate breakfasts with the same amounts of calories and mass but without protein. The results confirmed an earlier Pennington Biomedical Research Center study that served participants breakfasts identical in calories and volume, but consisting of either a bagel or two eggs. Researchers found protein caused reductions in ghrelin, a hunger-stimulating hormone.

“Both these studies show that when people eat eggs at breakfast, they feel more satisfied and consume fewer calories throughout the day, compared to those who eat a primarily carbohydrate meal like a bagel,” explains Pennington researcher Nikhil V. Dhurandhar, PhD.

Both younger and older consumers are especially well represented in the high-protein camp. Millennials love food, care about where it comes from and expect the most out of it. They see protein found in eggs or meats as a way to increase energy and provide the best overall health at a time in their lives when they burn the candle at both ends. Boomers are looking for energy and ways to remain active to stave off the effects of aging, and protein-rich products can offer help for the muscle loss that naturally occurs as we age. The easily digested egg protein can be especially useful for this group.

Protein-rich options for health-conscious consumers in the U.S. are plentiful at grocery stores, as food manufacturers have hurried to satisfy consumer demand. Mintel shows the percentage of new food and beverage launches making a high protein claim in 2013 was almost three times higher in the U.S. (23%) than in any other country.

Restaurant menus are also awash in high-protein morning options, as operators understand consumers’ demand for a good start to their day. But with good nutrition as a given, the desire for variety and craveability are what drove the creation of these amazing breakfast creations:

  • Chickichanga® (First Watch): whipped eggs with spicy all-natural white-meat chicken, chorizo sausage, green chilies, Cheddar and Monterey Jack, onions and avocado in a flour tortilla, with Vera Cruz sauce and sour cream
  • Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl With Roasted Turkey (Panera): roasted all-natural, antibiotic-free turkey, egg whites, warm baby spinach, roasted peppers and basil pesto (found on the chain’s “Hidden Menu”)
  • Fra’Mani Ham and Mushroom Scramble (Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Café): artisan ham, house-roasted cremini mushrooms and shredded Swiss cheese, served over a plank of freshly toasted sourdough with two large scrambled eggs and oven-roasted rosemary-garlic potatoes
  • Breakfast B.M.T.® Melt (Subway): fluffy egg whites, Black Forest ham, salami and pepperoni under melted cheese, topped with banana peppers, olives, tomatoes and sriracha sauce and wrapped in flatbread

You probably noticed the common item in all these menu items was eggs, but really, it’s a rare creative breakfast sandwich that doesn’t include them. Maybe recipe developers incorporate them for the nutritional boost they bring, as each egg provides 6-7 grams of protein with all nine essential amino acids and vitamin D as a bonus. Perhaps they’re used because they augment virtually any other ingredient. Or maybe it’s just because they’re delicious.

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