Protein: What you need to know

High protein diets now dominate the weight-loss scene. Many of you may have tried one of the many popular diets such as the Zone and Atkins diets.

Nutritionists are constantly being asked, “Do these diets work?” and “How much protein should I be eating?” The truth is, protein has many more functions than simply assisting with weight loss. We should be focusing on protein’s health benefits instead of what it can do for our waistlines.

Apart from being required to build muscle, protein is also the basis of our tendons, ligaments, collagen, hair and skin. Dietary protein sources are necessary for healthy hormone production, correct fluid balance and the transportation of vitamins, minerals and oxygen throughout the body. Protein is also essential for antibody production and a healthy immune system.

Including protein in meals promotes the feeling of fullness, satisfies hunger and reduces the need for extra, unnecessary kilojoules. And foods that are naturally high in protein also have a low glycaemic index which means they have little effect on blood-glucose levels.

But protein-only diets are unbalanced and lacking in vital vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

The recommended intake of protein is between 0.7 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight depending on activity levels and whether or not you are pregnant.

Greats sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans and good sources include grains such as rice, quinoa and multigrain bread.

Protein sources:
100g chicken or meat            =   22g-25g
Half a cup soybeans               =   14g
200g yogurt or 40g cheese   =   10g
1 cup dairy or soy milk          =   8.5g
Half a cup legumes                 =   8g
1 cup cooked rice                    =   4g


    Teresa Boyce, Nutritionist, in Body + Soul 20/05/12

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