Here is a superb article from the Sydney Morning Herald about protein and how important it is in your daily diet. Steak and eggs for breakfast then!?

I used to think protein was all about building muscle. I didn’t know it did so many other vital jobs in our bodies, until my husband became ill from work-related stress.

An immunologist told him his endocrine system had crashed, causing his testosterone levels to plummet. He prescribed a high-protein-based diet, with fresh fruits, vegetables and vege juices to get the supply of nutrients he needed. It took three months to get him back to full health.

WHAT IS PROTEIN?

It is made of 20 amino acids, which are nutrients you can’t live without. Whenever the body is growing, repairing or replacing tissue, protein is involved. It is also used to produce hormones, enzymes and haemoglobin, which carry oxygen in the body.

Think of your body as a high-performance sports car made from carbon fibre, with a finely tuned engine. Protein is the manufacturer that built it. It also moonlights as the mechanic – replacing parts and making sure it runs smoothly.

If you don’t get enough protein, the body takes it from your lean muscle and bone, which makes you weak and frail and can result in growth failure, loss of muscle mass, a suppressed immune system, hormone depletion and weakness of the heart and respiratory systems.

PROTEIN AND WEIGHT LOSS

Eating protein with meals helps you feel full for longer so you end up eating less in between them.
It can also help restore levels of natural testosterone in both men and women, which declines as we age, contributing to weight gain and loss of muscle mass.

FOOD SOURCES

Proteins in fish, lean grass-fed or game meats, (skinless) poultry, eggs and low-fat dairy (yoghurt, cottage cheese) are best as they contain all nine essential amino acids your body cannot produce on its own. Soy and quinoa contain all nine of them, too.

Proteins found in fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts and beans are excellent – but not all contain all the amino acids we need.

Complementary proteins are classed as lower-quality or incomplete as they might lack some essential amino acids. This means if you follow a vegetarian diet, you need to eat a wide variety of plant-based protein at every meal.

But there are advantages to eating plant-based sources of protein – they are lower in saturated fat and higher in fibre and nutrients.

HOW MUCH?

The average male should aim to eat about 0.84 grams per kilogram of body weight a day. For women it’s 0.75 grams and for athletes, children, pregnant women or the elderly it’s more.

PROTEIN SOURCES

Each equates to about 10 grams of protein.

  • 50g cooked fish or canned tuna/salmon/sardines
  • 40g skinless cooked chicken
  • 35g cooked lean beef
  • 1 cup low-fat milk or soy milk
  • 200g low-fat yoghurt
  • 70g cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 120g tofu
  • 60g nuts or seeds
  • 3/4 cup cooked beans or lentils
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