We’ve all seen bodybuilders and gym bunnies packing in the protein, but did you know protein is a vital part of a healthy diet for everyone? Let’s have a look at why it’s so important.
Here’s some quick fire facts about protein:
- It’s a macronutrient, alongside fats and carbohydrates – these are nutrients we need in larger quantities.
- It is contained in all our cells and tissues, making it essential for growth, repair and the maintenance of good health.
- Protein provides energy – 4 cal per gram and takes more energy for us to digest than refined carbs.
- It reduces our hunger hormone, leaving us feeling fuller for longer.
How much do I need and where can I get it from?
- Animal sources include: meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk
- Plant sources include: pulses, nuts, seeds, grains, soya, tofu, vegetables
There are 20 building blocks of proteins which are called amino acids. Our bodies can make 11 of them, the remaining 9 must be sourced from our diets. It’s recommended adults consume around 0.75g of protein per kg bodyweight per day, depending on age, activity levels and weight.
Animal proteins contain the full range of essential amino acids needed by our bodies while plant sources don’t. Vegans and vegetarians can source the amino acids they need by combining different plant proteins, e.g. pulses and tofu. It can be done, you’ve just got to plan a little smarter.
Understanding protein can be useful to look after the health of your heart. It gives you the know-how to replace foods that are high in saturated fat, such as processed meat, with other, more beneficial proteins. Lower fat protein, such as reduced fat dairy and lean meats will help lower your saturated fat intake. Choosing alternative proteins throughout the week, such as tofu or soya can help too.
We should all aim to include protein in our diets every day and it doesn’t always need to be from animal sources. Why not try out a new recipe a week using a plant-based protein source? Try replacing chicken with tofu in a curry or use lentils instead of mince in a bolognese. Enjoy experimenting. Create an interesting, varied diet that your body can thrive on.