A Nutritionist's Guide To Protein - Are You Getting Enough?

A Nutritionist's Guide To Protein - Are You Getting Enough?

 

Protein really isn’t just for those of us that go to the gym, it is an essential macronutrient we all need on a daily basis. The building blocks of protein are known as amino acids and it is these amino acids that play a crucial role in the formation of our skin, hair, nails and of course muscle tissue.

Ensuring you have protein at every single meal and varying these protein sources will provide a good mix of amino acids. So, if you had eggs at breakfast, don’t have them for lunch or dinner opting instead for fish, tofu or lean meat for example.

Although animal foods are usually highest in protein, many plants also contain sufficient amounts. The issue however is that not all plant based foods provide us with the complete amino acid profile found in all animal products. It is for this reason that I often advise my vegetarian or vegan clients to combine different plant based proteins to form a complete amino acid profile. For example, grains and cereals are extremely low in the amino acid lysine, If you only eat grains and cereals, you won't get enough lysine, and that's not ideal. However, legumes such as peanuts, peas, dry beans and lentils contain a lot of lysine. On the flip side, legumes aren't good sources of tryptophan, methionine and cystine, but those amino acids are found in grains and cereals. Consequently, if you combine rice and beans or oat cakes and peanut butter you can get a complete amino acid profile.

Are You Getting Enough Protein?

The simplest way to increase your protein intake is to eat more high-protein foods at every meal. If you have a physically demanding job, you walk a lot, run, swim or do any sort of exercise, you will need more protein on those days you not sedentary. In the UK, adults are advised by the NHS to eat 0.75g of protein for each kilogram they weigh, based on the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI). So, if you weigh 70kg (11 stone), you should eat about 52.5g of protein a day. Endurance athletes also need quite a bit of protein, up to 1.4 grams per kg. Elderly people also need significantly more protein, up to 50% higher than the recommended daily allowance

On average, men should eat 55g and women 45g of protein daily. That’s about 2 palm-sized portions of meat, fish, tofu, nuts or pulses. However, for those who have active lifestyles and workout, consuming a higher protein take is often recommended. For those men and women who are particularly active, consuming at least 1g of protein per kg of weight is sensible measure. However, not all high-protein foods are equal. Each will offer different levels vitamins and minerals that are also important for the body.

Here are 4 surprising plant and 4 animal sources that contain a significantly high amount of protein:

Plant sources

  • Watercress

One cup (34 grams) of watercress contains 0.8 grams of protein, while 100 grams of watercress contain 2.3 grams. Protein accounts for 50% of its calories.

  • Spinach

One cup (30 grams) of raw spinach contains 0.9 grams of protein, while 100 grams of spinach contain 2.9 grams. Protein accounts for 30% of the calories in spinach.

  • Asparagus

One cup (134 grams) of asparagus contains 2.9 grams of protein, while 100 grams of asparagus contain 2.2 grams. Protein accounts for 27% of the calories in asparagus.

  • Broccoli

One cup (91 grams) of chopped broccoli contains 2.6 grams of protein, while 100 grams of broccoli contain 2.8 grams. Protein accounts for 20% of the calories in broccoli.

Animal sources

  • Chicken breast

Chicken breast is a very popular source of protein, with a typical breast providing at least 25 grams. Protein accounts for 80% of its calories.

  • Turkey breast

Turkey is a low-fat source of protein with the breast being the leanest part of the bird. Protein accounts for 95% of its calories.

  • Eggs

Eggs contain tons of nutrition in the yolk and the whites mostly consist of water and protein. About 91% of calories in egg whites are from protein.

  • Tuna

Tuna is one of the leanest kinds of fish. Protein accounts for 92% of its calories.

Because these animal foods are significantly high in protein, they are also incredibly filling. Many have other health benefits as well, due to their high content of omega-3s, vitamins and minerals.

The bottom line is to aim to have balanced meals every day, pick a protein, lots of vegetables, healthy carbohydrate and a little bit of good fat. Regardless of what your diet or lifestyle is just be aware that you don’t have to workout to eat protein, it is fundamental for us all no matter what age and gender.

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Thanks Rhiannon! Here at MissFits we are quite partial to our Protein Multitasker whenever we need a boost to #MakeEverySweatCount