Protein is an essential macronutrient, required as part of a daily diet.
Many sources of food contain protein, and they are not all equal; also, the need for protein is very individual.
What is protein?
Proteins are large size molecules (macromolecules) formed by their building blocks – amino acids.
Protein is everywhere in the body (e.g. muscle, bone, skin, hair) and required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. Protein makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions in the body.
The proteins are made up of smaller units (about twenty-plus basic building blocks) called amino acids, which are attached to one another in long chains.
The sequence of amino acids determines the unique protein structure and its specific function.
9 amino acids are essential, meaning, must come from food, and the body cannot create them.
The essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, pulses (lentils, beans and peas), eggs, soy, nuts and seeds are considered part of the protein foods group.
Animal-based foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy foods) are sources of complete protein.
A complete protein contains all the essential amino acids needed to make new protein in the body.
Plant-based foods (pulses, grains, nuts, and seeds) are excellent sources for proteins but often lack one or more essential amino acids. So when eating a plant-based diet, you can get a complete protein by eating a variety of protein-containing plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds).
The best way to have complete protein from plants in your diet is by combining legumes with whole grains, for example- brown rice with lentils, hummus with whole-grain pita bread.
The protein Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is about 15% of daily calories or about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
- If you do endurance sports or weight training, you may benefit from increasing your protein intake.
- Studies also suggest that as we get older, we may benefit from eating more protein because it helps minimise the muscle loss associated with ageing.
- The best quality protein sources in terms of amino acids are quinoa, eggs, tofu, fish, meat, beans and lentils.
- Proteins from plant-based sources provide healthy fibre, and they are naturally low in saturated fats.
- Avoid eating too many animal-based proteins and choose other healthy and tasty food options to benefit your health.
- Get your protein from plants when possible.