For some reason, when we talk about protein, people automatically assume by eating it you’re going to put on a whole heap of muscle – or that it is just for people who go to the gym!
In every single person, it is crucial that our bodies are getting enough good quality protein in our diets on a day to day basis.
What exactly does protein do?
- We need make sure we’re getting enough not only for our physical structure but also on a cellular level – to repair damaged and worn out cells.
- Increase the feeling of satiety (feeling full!).
- Needed for the production of hormones – hormones can be derived from cholesterol and amino acids.
- Used by the immune system for specific immunoproteins which are found in our blood to identify and neutralise foreign objects in bacteria and viruses.
The basis of proteins are amino acids. There are 20 different types of amino acids – some which we can synthesis ourselves, but there are what’s called 9 ‘essential amino acids’ which we HAVE to get from our diets – we are unable to produce these, hence the name – essential!
These essential amino acids are valine, isoleucine, leucine, methionine, lysine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and histidine.
When it comes to protein sources there are what’s called ‘complete’ and ‘incomplete’ sources of protein. When they are ‘complete’ this means they contain all the essential amino acids. Animal sources such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products (with the exception of butter and sour cream which are primarily composed of fat) are ‘complete’ however there are fewer sources of plant-based ‘complete’ protein sources for vegans and vegetarian’s.
Some of the ‘Complete’ Plant Based Protein sources are:
Hemp – sold as oil, seeds or a dairy free milk.
Chia seeds – did you know these little bad boys, contain nearly a 1/5th of your daily calcium requirement (more than triple that of milk), which aids in strong bones and heart health.
Quinoa & Amaranth both contain 18 out of the 20 amino acids so are also a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
So how much protein should we be eating?
According to the National Academy of Sciences (2004), we should be consuming 0.8g of protein per kg of Body weight per day.
So – for example if you are 70kg x 0.8g = 56g of protein per day.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding this goes up to 1.1g – so if you were 70kg again you would need 77g of protein per day.
If you are training then it is recommended up to 1.7g per kg of body weight per day. So again, if you weigh 70kg this would be up to 119g of protein per day!
Tip: Make sure in every meal there is a source of protein that has been listed above!