Have you been told you need to consume more protein and you’re wondering why it’s so important?
Every person needs protein to be healthy and function properly. It is a macronutrient and is made up of two different types of amino acids; essential and non-essential.
Below, we share more detail about the benefits of protein and its role in weight loss, but before we do we are going to touch on essential and non-essential amino acids and where they’re found.
Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids
Essential amino acids cannot be produced by the human body, and thus need to be consumed via food. There are 9 essential amino acids which are primarily found in animal sources such as meat, chicken, fish, egg and dairy products.
Non-essential amino acids can be produced by the body itself. Food sources include soy and soy-based products as well as legumes.
Why is Protein Important?
- It is a source of energy
- Builds and maintains muscle
- Improves muscle recovery
- Assists with wound healing
- Provides structure to many areas of the body. Structural proteins include collagen, elastin and keratin
- Supports immunity and helps fight off infection
- May prevent long term hair loss
- Supports growth, development and repair tissues in all areas of the body including blood vessels, bones, tendons as well as hair, skin and nails.
The Role of Protein in Weight Loss
- Reduces hunger and increases satiety (fullness feeling)
- Increases thermogenesis i.e. the process by which calories are burned
- Prevents muscle loss during rapid weight loss following bariatric surgery
Sources of Protein
- High-protein yoghurts e.g. YoPro, Chobani Fit or Greek yoghurt in general
- Low fat dairy (milk, cheese)
- Lean meat e.g. lean beef, kangaroo,
- Lean poultry e.g. chicken without the skin and fat, eggs
- Nuts and seeds
- Protein powders e.g. Feel Good tasteless protein powder
Note: some muesli / nut bars are falsely advertised as “high-protein” bars and can contain up to 30 grams of sugar. This is equivalent to consuming a chocolate bar.
Plant-based Alternatives: Important Considerations
Plant-based sources of protein e.g. tofu, tempeh, legumes, nuts and seeds are considered to be incomplete. This is because they lack one or more essential amino acids. As a result, if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you will need to ensure you are getting a wide variety of protein-rich plant-based foods to meet your protein requirements.
Although fruits and vegetables are an important part of our diet, as they contain fibre and other essential vitamins and minerals, they are not protein-rich foods.
How much Protein Should I be Having?
Generally speaking, you should be aiming for a minimum of 60-80 grams of protein per day. However, your requirements will vary based on your gender, age, medical history and physical activity levels.
If you are unsure about whether you are meeting your targets, give us a call on 07 3871 2277 and speak to one of our dietitians.
Looking for recipe ideas? Click here for easy-to-make protein balls.