Often when we think of the macronutrient protein, we think of muscle gain and loss. But did you know protein is an essential building block for our brain?! The neurons (the information messengers) in your brain communicate with each other through proteins. So, protein is required to produce key neurotransmitters which are made mostly of amino acids, proteins building blocks.
What you eat can determine which neurotransmitters are firing within the brain and can affect the brain by changing emotions and alter mood. For example, have you noticed when you eat a high carbohydrate lunch your concentration plummets? Maybe you feel a little sluggish or like you need a nap? This is because when we eat a carbohydrate rich meal, we have just increased an amino acid called tryptophan in the brain. Tryptophan is used by the body to make melatonin and serotonin which among other things help to regulate our sleep-wake cycle.
Whereas, when you eat a meal rich in protein you may feel more alert. This is because you have just increased the levels of tyrosine, a cofactor in the production of noradrenaline and dopamine. These two brain chemical messengers play a role in alertness and energy.
So how much protein do you need? According to the Ministry of Health for Australian and New Zealand, the RDA (recommended daily intake) for adult men is 0.84 grams of protein per kilo of body weight and for women 0.75 grams per kilo of body weight. Or a palm size of protein at three main meals. This may include animal sources such as eggs, chicken, fish and red meat or vegetarian sources such as lentils, legumes, tofu or tempeh.
In my food world, there is no fear or guilt, only joy and balance.
Pesto Chicken with Chickpea Pasta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 500g chicken thigh, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 cup green beans, roughly chopped
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup rocket or spinach
- 1 cup mushrooms, diced
- 250g chickpea pasta
- 150g basil pesto
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oven at 180 degrees. Line a tin with baking paper.
- Spread the cherry tomatoes over the baking paper and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven and bake until the cherry tomatoes start to split.
- Meanwhile in a medium pan heat the olive oil.
- Cook the diced garlic and onion until browned.
- Add the chicken thigh and cook until browned.
- Add the green beans and mushrooms and cook until the beans soften. Stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile heat a large pot of water and follow the instructions on the box for the pasta.
- Once the pasta has cooked drain it and add it to the chicken mix in the fry pan. Stir well.
- Then add the pesto into the chicken and pasta mixture and stir until well covered.
- Serve into your bowls and top it with the cherry tomatoes.