What is protein?
Protein is one of our three macronutrients along with carbohydrates and fats. Getting enough of each of these three macronutrients is essential for every day health. Protein is the nutrient vital for building and repairing tissues, cells, muscles and organs. When digested it is broken down into amino acids which are the body’s building blocks for growth and energy. There are 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential. We need to get essential amino acids from our diet, as the body is unable to make them itself. Animal protein such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy are all ‘complete’ proteins providing all the amino acids the body needs. Plant proteins such as grains, vegetables, legumes and nuts are ‘incomplete’ proteins – this means that they lack one or more of the essential amino acids. This doesn’t mean that eating these sources of protein is not worthwhile, or that you need to eat animal protein to get everything you need, just that dietary variety is needed. Mixing and matching different types of plant protein will ensure you get all essential amino acids.
Benefits of eating protein
Protein has been shown to aid in satiety, meaning that it keeps us feeling fuller for longer. This in itself can help promote weight loss, as we are less inclined to eat greater amounts or snack on unhealthier foods.
Alongside an appropriate exercise regime, eating sufficient protein is also known to help promote fat loss and increase muscle mass. As muscle is more metabolically active than fat tissue, this can also help to increase your calorie burn.
So how can you get more protein in your diet?
Add protein to your breakfast
Instead of reaching for the cereal in the morning, try eggs for breakfast. Eggs can be super quick to prepare and will keep you feeling full right through ’til lunch. Try scrambling a couple of eggs in a mug – cook them in a microwave for about 90 seconds and serve them with a slice of grainy toast, some spinach, avocado and tomato. Just as quick as a bowl of cereal with a bucket load more nutrition.
Include legumes and pulses
When planning your meals, think about your side dishes. Including chickpeas or kidney beans is a great way to increase your protein intake as well as your fibre. You can even incorporate these things into mince dishes – Mexican dishes are great with some chili beans!
Add protein to salads
Salads are a great way to increase your intake of essential minerals and vitamins, and the more colourful the better. The problem with salads however, is that they ae really low in protein, and so you will often find that within a couple of hours you are hungry again. The trick is to add something like lean chicken, a tin of tuna or salmon, a couple of eggs or some pulses to your meal. A simple dressing made from lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper is a healthy alternative to store bought dressings and mayonnaises.
Make sure snacks are protein based
Rather than a couple of biscuits or muesli bar that is packed full of refined ingredients and sugar that will likely leave you hungry sooner rather than later, reach for a protein based snack. Easy options include edamame beans, tinned tuna on wholegrain crackers, a small handful of nuts, a tablespoon of peanut butter with fruit or fruit and yoghurt.
Swap out your regular yoghurt for Greek yoghurt
If you enjoy snacking on yoghurt make an easy switch and try Greek yoghurt instead. Depending on the brand, Greek yoghurt can boast 2 times as much protein as regular yoghurts. Not to mention cutting out a whole bunch of sugar. If you’re not a fan of eating yoghurt alone, add some berries for a natural burst of sweetness.
Eat cottage cheese
It’s not everyone’s favourite, but it’s a great addition to all sorts of dishes both sweet and savoury. Add a couple of tablespoons to a fruit snack, spread on wholegrain crackers, mix through tuna instead of mayo or add to salads. Easy!
If you need help with any aspect of your diet or nutrition plan, get in touch today for personalised tips and ideas.