What is protein?
Which foods are rich in protein and how do we know if we are eating enough?
Protein is a main food group that is comprised of foods that are mainly used as the body’s building blocks. We consume protein to build and maintain our muscle, tissues and hair and even our nails!
Proteins are made up of different combinations of 20 amino acids. Our bodies are only able to manufacture 11 of these 20 amino acids. We must get the remaining 9 amino acids from the foods we eat and they are therefore referred to as the essential amino acids. Foods that contain all or almost all of the essential amino acids are considered higher value protein; because it is complete (contains all 20 amino acids).
The best protein sources are:
- Low fat meats, lean meat: chicken, turkey, lean beef cuts and pork tenderloin
- Fish: especially salmon, mackerel and sardines are an excellent source of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids
- Low-fat dairy: milk, yoghurt and cottage cheese are also excellent sources of protein and calcium
- Legumes: lentils, soya beans, chickpeas
It is important to remember that high-fat cuts of meat (such as bacon) and hard yellow cheeses are far higher in saturated fat and should be limited in our daily diet.
So how do we know if we are eating enough protein? The best overall advice I can give is to make sure that each meal contains a food from the protein group. Vegetarians can eat dairy products and eggs, vegans can eat a variety of legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas, soya beans and soya products such as tofu) combined with whole cereals. An example would be lentils and rice. Vegetarians and vegans need to make sure that they are eating enough variety to make sure that they are getting all 20 amino acids, which is difficult to do when a huge part of the protein food group is taken out of their diet.
I hope that from reading this post you will be able to make better meal choices and by doing that improve your overall health!