The last few weeks for me have been somewhat of a rollercoaster, both emotionally and physically, but through my gorgeous friends (especially my nat/nuts who totally GET it), multiple cups of tea a day and my love for food, I’m getting through it. One of the things I always make sure I get enough of, especially when I’m stressed, is protein. Protein is needed every day, but even more so when you are stressed. If you are like me, prone to anxiety and insomnia when stressed, ensuring you get lots of protein (along with plenty of fresh vegetables) can be just another way to help your body cope with stress because protein is used for the production of the hormones (neurotransmitters) that calm you down, make you happy and help you sleep.
Let’s talk about protein and amino acids
I’ve noticed lately that a lot of very well-meaning bloggers and vloggers out there in the interwebs/blogosphere that are trying to inspire their followers to be healthy (which I think is fabulous, by the way) are just a tad ill-informed when they are trying to demonstrate why a food is particularly healthy: “It’s full of protein and amino acids”. Now, I’m not trying to be a perfectionist and talk these people down (it’s just not my style), but as a health practitioner I can’t help but want to educate as many people as I can about the basics. The statement isn’t exactly untrue, but when you know the basics of nutrition, it does sound a tad repetitive.
Miranda, what the bejesus are you talking about?
Ok, so protein is a macronutrient, meaning it is a nutrient you need in large amounts to contribute to your daily energy intake, but it also has a lot of other essential functions. You need protein not only for energy, but for the structure of every cell in your body, for growth, for hormone and neurotransmitter production, for cell signalling, the utilisation and transport of chemicals within the body and support for your immune system, just to name a few.
Protein is a long chain molecule made up of many smaller amino acids. In foods you consume both protein and amino acids. Your body digests proteins, breaking their chains down into amino acids that are then absorbed. Once these amino acids are in the body they are then used to build new proteins and other molecules that the body uses for a wide variety of functions.
So, amino acids = small parts of a protein chain, protein = big chain of amino acids
In other words, if something has protein in it, it by definition has amino acids in it.
Specific amino acids in protein sources such as chicken, quinoa, lentils, beef, beans, fish, lamb, eggs, etc are used to build neurotransmitters (chemicals that send signals from one brain cell to another). The following neurotransmitters are particularly helpful in times of stress (to help you calm your farm!) and need protein in order to be produced:
GABA – this neurotransmitter is required to reduce excessive excitation of the nervous system, meaning it reduces nervousness, anxiety and irritability and improves concentration. The amino acid required to produce it is glutamate.
Serotonin – nurtures feelings of happiness and wellbeing, while low levels are associated with depression. The amino acid required for serotonin production is tryptophan.
Melatonin – the neurotransmitter that regulates sleep and mood requires high levels of serotonin in order to be produced, so again, it is produced from tryptophan.
Dopamine – controls the brains reward and pleasure centres. It required phenylalanine and/or tyrosine for production.
While protein is important for the production of these neurotransmitters, they also need a wide array of vitamins and minerals for their conversion, so be sure to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit too.
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you can probably guess that I am both a fan of breakfast and a fan of eggs. For starters, eggs are just so versatile and delicious (see this post for eggspiration) and breakfast is the first opportunity in the day to eat, which, clearly, I am all about!
“I love sleep because it’s like a time machine to breakfast”
This Omnomnomelette is a perfect way to get in plenty of protein and vegetables at the start of the day (but is a great recipe for dinner or lunch too), and I’ve been eating this guy nearly every day lately. I never use the same filling twice, so mix it up and chuck in some herbs if you’re feeling adventurous.
I’ll also warn you: make sure you have a good non-stick pan, or this will not work whatsoever. Also, a nice wide egg flip would be ideal if it’s available
1tsp extra virgin olive oil
½ onion, thinly sliced
½ tomato, cubed
2 mushrooms, thinly sliced
¼ green capsicum, cubed
¼ cup rocket
Heat your non-stick pan on a med-high heat. When hot, drizzle olive oil over the pan and add the vegetables you wish to sauté (for me, this is everything but the rocket). While these are cooking, crack your eggs into a bowl with cracked pepper and whisk.
Stir your vegetables occasionally, and after a few minutes (or when cooked to your liking) remove the vegetables from the pan onto a dinner plate, discarding as much as possible. Put pan directly back onto the heat and pour over your egg mix, swirling until it covers the base of your pan. When your egg mix is mostly cooked through, pour your cooked veg and rocket onto one half of your omelette and carefully flip the other half on top. Cook for another minute, then slide onto your plate.
Try other fillings too: spinach, avocado, grated sweet potato, zucchini, eggplant, chilli, spring onion, red onion, snow pea sprouts, beans, chicken, salmon, chickpeas, fetta, haloumi – the opportunities are endless!
I guarantee that this Omnomnomelette is completely omnomNOM-able! Who doesn’t want that?!