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Protein priorities

Hi everyone! I hope you’re all doing okay and starting to get glimpses of your previous “normal” lives as restrictions are slowly being lifted! I’m sure so many of you (as people who are interested in diet and exercise) are clued up on the role of dietary protein but let me refresh your memory or teach you something you didn’t know before.

There are so many sources of protein! The obvious ones are meat, poultry, fish, eggs and cheese. The less obvious ones are meat replacement items, such as Quorn and soy based products, and legumes and pulses. It’s worth noting (and I’m sure you all saw in the media) that processed red meat such as bacon and sausages are known to cause cancer, and it is likely that red meat also causes cancer. Try to limit your intake of these to no more than twice a week.

We need protein for a variety of reasons, such as growth, healing, and proper immune function. Guidelines for protein intake are about 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight per day. Generally speaking, that translates to around 45g for women and 55g for men per day. Obviously this is a rough guide and we are all very different, but this equates to two servings of fish, meat, nuts or tofu per day.

Protein is made up of amino acid chains. There are certain amino acids which are known as “essential” as we cannot synthesise them in our bodies and so we need to obtain these via our diet. If you eat meat or animal products (cheese, milk, eggs) then you will be consuming plenty of these amino acids, however other sources of protein such as beans, pulses and grains are generally lacking in one or more of these amino acids. Eating two sources of non-animal proteins at the same time which each contains the essential amino acid that the other is lacking – known as “complimentary pairs” – ensures that you will receive enough of each essential amino acid. Most vegetarian/vegan mass produced products (such as Quorn) contain complete protein, but it is worth noting that these products often have a high salt content. Always check the label.

Many people choose to supplement their diet with protein shakes or items made with protein powder. This is largely fine but the real question is, do we really need this additional protein source? Well… generally most of us in the UK have a very adequate protein intake without these items, but having higher protein options between meals could lead to less snacking. Protein is great for making us feel full which could definitely stop you reaching for other snacks! One thing worth bearing in mind is the sugar content of some protein shakes and other items supplemented with extra protein. Protein supplements generally don’t display the traffic light system but you can use the below as a guide!

So that’s my whistle stop tour on protein! I hope it’s been a good refresher☺. Stay safe everyone, see you next month!


Toni Walsh is a Dietetic Assistant for the NHS and writes a nutrition blog for us every month, posted on the first Sunday of each month. Why not download the Wix app here to get notifications when a blog post goes live for you to read with your Sunday afternoon cuppa?

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