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All you need to know about protein

Protein is a vital part of our diet because it's an important structural component in all of our cells. It is needed for growth and repair, and provides the body with around 15% of its dietary energy requirements. Many proteins can't be made or stored in our bodies and should therefore be included in our diet.

Foods that are a good source of protein

Protein rich foods include meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds.

Protein from animal sources contains the full range of essential amino acids that a body needs to function. However, red meat is also high in saturated fat and should only be enjoyed in moderation.

Fish is a healthier source of animal protein. Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, trout and sardines are rich is essential fatty acids, and experts recommend that you should aim for two portions a week.

Plants don't contain the full range of essential amino acids - so vegetarians and vegans need to keep a close eye on their protein intake. Nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, vegetable protein foods and soya products all contain protein.

How much protein do I need?

Health professionals recommend that men should aim for 55g of protein and women should aim for 45g of protein. Adding a protein-rich food to two of your meals should be sufficient.

For example, aim for two or three of the following food portions per day:

  • 2 medium sized eggs
  • a handful of nuts
  • a handful of seeds
  • 100g of boneless poultry
  • 100g of fish
  • 100g of bonesless meat

Protein and weight loss

Protein rich foods are often recommended for people who are trying to lose weight because they can make you feel fuller for longer. However, when losing weight the most important thing to remember is that you should be aiming for a healthy, balanced diet that includes all essential nutrients.

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