Protein Feeds the Brain and More


I find myself frequently emphasizing more protein to my clients and for many good reasons. For years, we have been told that Americans eat too much protein and while there are pockets of places where pound size steaks still abound, that is less often the case. In fact, as I record the food of many, I find that protein intake is far less than ideal.

Re-education is needed about the importance of protein, especially for young adolescent females, where flesh protein is a better source of iron, B12 and the amino acids needed for proper growth of the reproductive system. There are countless research studies showing this to be true, and yet, the trend for young women is often to exclude meat entirely. While it is possible to obtain protein, vitamins and minerals in a vegetarian diet, it does require more careful attention, preparation and the nutrients are not as generally readily available.

Protein is made up of amino acids and these amino acids are responsible for cell, tissue and organ growth and repair. In addition, amino acids make up the neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are brain chemical messengers. We all know about Serotonin being responsible for mood and satiety and Dopamine being the reward neurotransmitter. But did you know that GABA assists with calming and sleep, while Norepinephrine helps us to wake up and have energy in the morning. These important functions are due to protein being broken down into amino acids that then construct neurotransmitters. For more information about neurotransmitters and their functions, visit – both client and professional resources are available.

Another important function of protein is long-term energy. The average carb is used up in about fifteen minutes to two hours, while proteins take about four to six hours to be used up. The net effect is long-term satiety or preventing the crash and crave.

If one thinks of the healthy plate, it is true that having a mostly plant-based diet is ideal. This is about ½ the plate full of vegetables, a quarter of fiber-dense grain/starch and another quarter devoted to the protein portion. This is generally about 3-4 ounces or that famous “deck of cards” size. If the protein is coming from legumes or organic soy, the equivalent would be about 1-1 ½ cups. A general rule of thumb is for a healthy individual to eat about 1 gram/kilogram of body weight and for those requiring growth and/or repair, about 1.5-2 grams per kilo. One kilo equals 2.2 pounds, thus a 120 pound woman will need about 55 grams protein and if recovering from surgery, she will need 82.5-110 grams per day.

Next time you choose to order up that burger or grilled chicken, be sure it is hormone and antibiotic free or better yet, grass-fed and organic. This will ensure a healthy source and a rich amount of omega three fats as part of the package.

Why not try this delicious Meatloaf Muffin Meal from Feel Great Look Great-Balanced Eating for a Balanced Life. Bon Appetit!

Meatloaf “Muffins”

  • Serves 8 (2 “muffins” each)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup ketchup, no added salt
  • 1½ pounds ground beef, 95% lean
  • 1 cup (18 – 20 crackers) Saltine crackers, non-fat, finely crushed or gluten free oats
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard, prepared
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • Cooking spray


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Coat large non-stick skillet with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, carrot, dried oregano, and minced garlic. Sauté 2 minutes. Cool.
  • Combine onion mixture, 1/4 cup ketchup, and remaining ingredients except cooking spray in large bowl.
  • Coat muffin tin with cooking spray. Spoon meat mixture into 16 (2 inch) muffin tins. Top each with about 2 teaspoons of ketchup.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160°F. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
  • Nutrient Analysis: cal 201/pro 21/carb 15/fiber 1/fat 5/sodium 270
  • Exchanges: 3 meat, 1 bread, 1 fat
  • Make it a meal: 1 serving (½ cup) Roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary & 1 cup steamed green beans.