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Nutrition Series Part 3: The Role of Protein in Recovery

Ever since we were kids, we’ve been bombarded with the idea that “carbs are evil” and “fats are forbidden”. But the reality is, is that we need a variety of each food group in order to live our lives to the fullest. Particularly in eating disorder recovery, our bodies have been through so much and it’s time we start to treat our bodies the way they deserve to be treated. Read up on the importance of each major food group, and how it can be beneficial to eating disorder recovery.


Fortunately, today’s society applauds protein and all the ways it helps your body function. Protein plays a vital role in repairing and building your body’s tissues; we should aim for having a source of protein at every meal because the proteins in our body are constantly being used for the growth and maintenance of our bodies. Interestingly enough, protein is the last source of fuel our bodies want to use for energy. They would rather use carbohydrates or fats instead because they metabolize more quickly compared to proteins. Protein is also used so much throughout the body and is, in a sense, “valuable”.

Put very, very simply, proteins are digested in your stomach and break down into simpler proteins (amino acids) which are then absorbed into the bloodstream.

Benefits and the Importance of Protein:
  • Protein repairs and builds your body’s tissues

  • Protein keeps your metabolism working steadily and appropriately.

  • Enzymes, a type of protein, are used for important functions such as digestion, energy production, blood clotting, and muscle contraction.

  • Hormones are also a type of protein that helps with communication between your cells, organs, and tissues.

  • Protein also creates antibodies to support immune health and fight foreign bacteria and viruses

  • It also stores and transports nutrients throughout your bloodstream.

What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Protein?
  • You will begin to lose muscle mass, meaning that you lose your strength.

  • Your metabolism will also slow down in an effort to conserve energy and resources.

  • You will feel very fatigued, sluggish, and exhausted throughout the day.

  • You will experience brittle and thinning hair, weak fingernails, and dry skin.

  • Proteins are the building blocks of neurotransmitters, responsible for the chemicals in your brain that regulate your mood and that relay information from one cell to another. Without protein, these neurotransmitters will not function and you will feel more irritable, depressed, and/or angry.

  • You will also likely feel hungry, and never feel satisfied when eating.

Ideas for healthy, complex, nutritious protein:
  • Meats (beef, pork, lamb)

  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)

  • Eggs

  • Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese)

  • Nuts and seeds

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