08 Apr Protein: What sources are there?
By Hannah Buckland, Healthy Hearts Care Planner
Having already written about carbohydrates and fats, it’s only right that we take a look at the third macronutrient: protein. Although it seems to spark less confusion than the others, there is still a common perception that you cannot get sufficient protein without including animal products in your diet. Let’s see if this is the case.
Protein is essential for growth and repair and the maintenance of good health. It provides around 10 to 15% of dietary energy and can aid with weight maintenance; helping you feel fuller for longer and consequently decreasing your overall energy intake. The current recommendation for a healthy adult is to eat about 0.75g of protein per kg of your body weight per day, although this does depend on factors such as age, activity levels and weight.
Proteins are made up of smaller molecules called amino acids, of which there are twenty different types. Eleven of these can be made in the body, whereas the other nine must be eaten in the diet. The reason why animal sources of protein (meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk) are considered superior to plant sources is because they contain all nine of the essential amino acids required by humans. On the other hand, plant sources of protein (pulses, nuts, seeds, grains, soya and vegetables) tend to lack at least one of these essential amino acids. Nevertheless, it is still possible to get all the protein you need from plant sources, by combining two or more different plant protein foods with complementary amino acid profiles; for example, rice and beans, tofu and whole-grain noodles, or hummus and pitta bread. These complementary proteins do not have to be eaten at the same meal to provide you with all the essential amino acids that your body needs.
This is useful information for anyone trying to eat a cardio-protective diet, as it allows you to reduce foods high in saturated fat, such as red and processed meat, whilst safe in the knowledge that you can still provide your body with all its protein needs. To choose alternative protein sources throughout the week (many of which are cardio-protective) is likely to be beneficial for your health. Choosing lower-fat protein foods, such as reduced fat dairy products or lean meats, can also help to reduce your intake of saturated fat and therefore minimise your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
So, include some protein in your diet every day but aim to mix it up a little – it doesn’t always need to come from animal sources. Why not try some alternative protein sources this week? We’d love to hear which ones you go for! Would you like to know more or have some support in helping you mix up your proteins? Join us! We have Cook & Eat and Weight Management courses that both talk about what we eat!
Read some other blogs in our Myth Busting Series:
Wk1 Can you trust what you read online?
Wk2 Calories: Should you focus on quantity or quality?
Wk3 Should you be cutting carbs for weight loss?
Wk4 Should you be following a low fat diet?
Wk5 Protein: What sources are there?
Wk6 Whats the deal with superfoods?
Wk7 Covid 19 – Can you boost your immune system with food?
Wk8 Is Coconut Oil Good for You?