The Benefits of Protein Wednesday, November 01, 2017

We are all very familiar with eating protein foods in our diet but we often forget that we need to include these not only in main meals but snacks too. Sources of protein in our diet include lean meats such as chicken, fish, lean beef, lean lamb and pork, as well as meat alternatives like nuts and eggs. Don’t forget about plant foods which can also be good sources of protein including tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils and other legumes. Dairy products including milk, cheese and yoghurt are also rich sources of protein.

Which Protein Foods do I Choose?

It is important like with any food group to encompass a wide variety of protein sources in our diet. We need to aim for between 2 – 3 serves of lean meat and meat alternatives per day. Lean cuts of meat are recommended to decrease the amount of saturated fat consumed, which will can contribute to cholesterol levels. The same reason is why lite and reduced fat dairy is recommended. Removing skin off chicken and trimming the fat off red meat will also help reduce the amount of saturated fat – and remember to do so before cooking as fat will liquefy to oil when cooked, which is much more difficult to remove.

Growth and Repair

It is important to consume protein as it is a component of many elements of the body including muscles, hair, nails and enzymes. It is the second most common compound in the body, after water. It is used for growth and repair of cells and tissues in the body, so it is important to include protein into every meal to allow for these processes. Lean protein such as lean red meat in particular can also provide valuable iron and zinc.


Protein foods play a major role in assisting us to feel full after a meal. With similar energy content per gram as carbohydrates, protein requires more time to break down in comparison because of its molecular composition. Protein is made up of long chains of peptides formed by lots of building blocks, called amino acids. These need to be broken down before they can enter the bloodstream and be used by the body. On the other hand, carbohydrates are the body’s first source or fuel so it’s important that a healthy balance of protein and carbohydrates are included in your diet, otherwise cutting out carbohydrates can make you feel lethargic, irritable and weak.

Weight Control

By including a balance of lean protein with unrefined carbohydrates and good fats such as grilled chicken breast with a baked potato and leafy salad with avocado and tomato, we are able to control the release of sugars (promoting a low glycaemic response) into the bloodstream after digestion, hence controlling insulin production. Lowering the insulin response can help avoid the laying down of fat tissue. Hence, protein is vitally important for weight control and keeping trim.