At times it can seem like a minefield when you start looking into nutrition and food choices, macro nutrients, micronutrients, all combined with sometimes misleading advertising advocating the ‘health’ benefits of particular products…. All a bit much right? Plus from personal experience it can be difficult at times to keep your protein levels up without blowing out your fats and/or carbohydrate intake. Who else has done this before? Me for one!
The one way I find super convenient is to consume protein shakes, but some people prefer to eat their protein, or shakes may not agree with them; it is definitely a personal choice.
So, with that in mind what are options to get quality protein into your diet?
- Eggs. Despite their bad rap, eggs are a fabulous source of protein as they contain all of the essential amino acids the body requires. They can be great to throw into a salad, to have as a snack or post work out. Try to purchase free range organic eggs.
- Lean meat is another great option as it has the required amino acids and contains other nutrients as well. Always opt for quality cuts, that are minimally processed and when possible purchase organic produce and grass fed when it comes to beef.
- Fish is also another great option for including protein into the diet, plus you also receive healthy fats.
- Dairy products also contain various amino acids and can be found in milk, cheese and yoghurts. However avoid consuming too much dairy due to the higher fat content and lactose.
- Nuts and seeds including almonds, hazelnuts, mixed nuts, peanuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, chia or walnuts all contain various amino acids. Hemp in particular contains all essential amino acids. Just be cautious as to how much you eat, because nuts are high in fat.
- Legumes and beans, for example pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, split peas, or garbanzo beans are all great sources of amino acids
- Grains such as quinoa, buckwheat and rice contain various quantities of protein
- Tofu, tempeh, and other soy protein products contain all the essential amino acids.
- Quorn (Mycoprotein). Quorn is made by growing a certain kind of fungus in vats and turning it into meat substitutes that are a complete protein.
- Ezekiel Bread – contains wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt, put in together to make bread
It is important to have a certain amount of protein daily to maintain adequate health. Below are the Australian Dietary Guidelines for recommended servings per day:
- Men aged 19-50 years = 3 serves
- Men aged 51 years and over = 2 ½ serves
- Women aged 19-50 years = 2½ serves
- Women aged 51 years and over = 2 serves
- Pregnant women = 3 ½ serves
- Breastfeeding women = 2 ½ serves.
A standard serving size consists of:
- 65g cooked lean meats such as beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat or kangaroo (about 90-100 g raw)
- 80g cooked lean poultry such as chicken or turkey (100 g raw)
- 100g cooked fish fillet (about 115 g raw weight) or one small can of fish
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup (150g) cooked dried beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas or canned beans (preferably with no added salt)
- 170g tofu
- 30g nuts, seeds, peanut or almond butter or tahini or other nut or seed paste (no added salt).
- 1 cup of milk (250ml)
- 200g of yoghurt
For those however, who like to be a little more technical, the minimum requirement of protein per day is 0.8g/kg of body weight per day. However, this is just for maintaining the necessary functions of the body. Typically 1-2g/ kg of body weight per day enhances the function of the body and allows for more optimal well-being and performance.
It is important to ensure your body receives all the essential amino acids that cannot be synthesised by the body to produce the required proteins. This may require the pairing of foods, if they lack specific amino acids, however, as a general rule of thumb, eating a wide variety of foods that contain some of the foods outlined above mixed with quality vegetables, healthy fats and quality carbohydrates, your body should receive all the amino acids it requires.