While most people will monitor their calorie, sugar and salt intake, it is essential to be monitoring your protein intake to ensure you are providing your body with the essential elements it needs to maintain and fuel. It is known that protein should be involved in your daily health maintenance plan, it is especially important for growth and development in children, teens, and pregnant women. Here is some more information about the importance of protein and how it can be easily incorporated into your diet.
Build: With our hair and nails mostly comprised of protein, it is a key building block of bones, cartilage, and skin.
Repair: Every cell in the human body contains protein. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids, meaning the human body needs protein in your diet to help the body repair cells and make new ones.
Digest: About half the dietary protein that you consume each day goes into making enzymes, which aid in digesting food and making new cells and body chemicals.
Regulate: Protein plays an important role in hormone regulation, especially during the transformation and development of cells during puberty.
Protein can be easily incorporated into your diet by being aware of it’s nutritional values. Different foods contain different amounts of essential amino acids; Animal products (such as chicken, beef or fish and dairy products) have all of the essential amino acids and are known as ‘complete’ protein.
Soy products, quinoa and the seed of a leafy green called amaranth (consumed in Asia and the Mediterranean) also have all of the essential amino acids. Plant proteins (beans, lentils, nuts and whole grains) usually lack at least one of the essential amino acids and are considered ‘incomplete’ proteins.
Best food sources of protein are:
lean meats: beef, lamb, veal, pork, kangaroo
poultry: chicken, turkey, duck, emu, goose, bush birds
fish and seafood – fish, prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, scallops, clams
dairy products: milk, yoghurt (especially Greek yoghurt), cheese (especially cottage cheese)
nuts (including nut pastes) and seeds – almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, macadamias, hazelnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
legumes and beans: all beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, tofu.
Some grain and cereal-based products are also sources of protein but are generally not as high in protein as meat and meat-alternative products.
There are plenty of simple food recipes including some of these ingredients that will help you hit your daily protein goal. Nuts and seeds are fantastic in salads, with vegetables and served on top of curries. Try toasting some pine nuts or flaked almonds and putting them in your green salad Greek yoghurt is a protein-rich food that you can use throughout the day. Add some to your favourite breakfast cereal, put a spoonful on top of a bowl of pumpkin soup or serve it as a dessert with some fresh fruit.