Updated: Jul 12, 2021
On a recent live session on the radio, I was asked about what foods are good sources of protein, how much should we eat and why it is important – questions that are both straightforward but also complex to answer within a short amount of allocated time.
Proteins are an essential macronutrient, meaning that our bodies can’t make it and as a result, it must come from food sources. All our cells and tissues contain protein, which is why it is vital for growth and repair of the body and maintenance of good health. Protein also provides us with energy – 4 kilocalories per gram of protein.
Good sources of protein include:
Lean cuts of meat, poultry and fish
If you eat a more plant-based style of diet, are vegetarian or vegan, the following are good sources of protein:
Pea protein powder
Legumes (e.g. black beans, kidney beans, peanuts) and legume-based products such as tofu
Grains such as quinoa and oats
As for how much we need to eat – this is a contentious issue! The British Nutrition Foundation suggest around 0.75g per kilogram of bodyweight. However, these recommendations are based on the minimum amount to maintain nitrogen balance, not physical activity level. Individuals with low activity levels have increased protein requirements to maintain their muscle tissue and it is argued that considering physical activity decreases with age, our ageing adult bodies alter the way in which protein is used. As such, protein requirements are being challenged as being insufficient to meet the demands of our bodies and some people recommend 1g to 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight, the amount depending on height and physical activity levels, which amounts to 90g to 130g for women and 105g to 140g for men.
Book an appointment with me to get a tailored nutrition programme, including recommended protein intake.
World Health Organisation [n.d.] Nutrients [Online]. Available from: https://www.who.int/elena/nutrient/en/
British Nutrition Foundation (2012). Protein [Online]. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/protein.html?start=5
NHS (2018) Vegetarian and vegan diets Q&A [Online]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/vegetarian-and-vegan-diets-q-and-a/
Lonnie et al. (2018) Protein for Life: Review of Optimal Protein Intake, Sustainable Dietary Sources and the Effect on Appetite in Ageing Adults. Nutrients, 10(3):360. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5872778/
Wu (2016) Dietary protein intake and human health. Food Funct., 7(3), pp.1251-65. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26797090/