The Power of Protein

high protein foods

Protein is found in many foods more than we might realise. Foods such as meat, fish, eggs and milk come to mind, however many grains and legumes such as oats, quinoa, rice, chickpeas and lentils also contribute to our protein intake.

When we eat food containing protein the body breaks it up into individual amino acids that are absorbed via the digestive system. They are then joined back together to build different proteins as the body needs them. The body is continually breaking down and rebuilding proteins, this is called protein turnover. To build extra muscle we want the body to do more making than breaking!

How Much Protein Do I Need?

The Australian Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for protein are:

• 75-1.0 grams per kilogram body weight for the average adult
• 1 gram-1.2 grams per kilogram body weight during pregnancy and lactation.
• 5-1.8 grams per kilogram body weight for extra requirements, such as heavy training loads, wanting to increase muscle mass, illnesses, wound repair, the older person ( >70 years)

Are these recommendations too low? The RDI’s are set at the minimum intake of protein to offset deficiency. Many of us eat more than the RDI each day but what seems to be critical is eating your protein fairly evenly spread out over the day as well as meeting a daily total.  There is research indicating that 25-30grams per meal is an optimal amount of protein for the body to stimulate protein synthesis continually. The body is limited to how much protein it can use at one time, hence the 25-30grams per meal guide rather than one big meal at the end of the day with the majority of your protein intake (e.g. half a plate of steak). The body also requires physical activity to stimulate the muscle to grow, hence the saying, ‘move it or lose it’. From the age of 30 our muscle mass starts to decline so it is not just an old age thing.  We all need to maintain our muscle mass, to live active lives, it is not just about athletes. That is why being active, combined with a good diet is powerful for us all!

Why else is protein important?

1. Protein helps with keeping you full for longer (satiety) which is helpful for weight management.
2. Protein also lowers the glycaemic index of a meal containing carbohydrate when eaten together. This gives a more gradual release of the glucose from the carbohydrate food and therefore a slower rise in blood sugar levels.
3. Protein is involved in the production of many hormones and enzymes of the body
4. Our immune system relies on protein for production of antibodies, red and white blood cells, healing of wounds and many more processes.

How do I get enough protein at breakfast?

It can be tricky incorporating protein into breakfast and you may struggle to hit 25grams. You could have some more in a mid morning snack. Here are a few ideas to boost the protein in your breakfast. These can be eaten any time of day!

• Milk or Rokeby’s Probiotic Filmjolk (~9.5g protein/250ml) on cereal (~4g protein) with a scoop of yoghurt (~5g)
• Rice pudding with added nuts and pumpkin seeds and quark yoghurt
Bircher muesli with Rokeby’s Probiotic Filmjolk
Chia pudding (with cow’s milk, soy or Rokeby’s Probiotic Filmjolk)
Smoothie made with Rokeby’s Probiotic Filmjolk, cow’s milk or soy and yoghurt, oats
• Breakfast burrito with beans, cheese and vegetables
• Eggs poached, scrambled, boiled, omelette, quiche
• Soups- minestrone, tofu
• Legumes- kidney cooked with tomatoes and onion, canned baked beans, hummus
• Tuna, salmon, smoked salmon, sardines or herrings on toast with tomatoes
• Spreads such as nut spread, tasty cheese, cottage, quark, ricotta or feta cheese and choosing higher protein breads- with lentils, legumes as ingredients

Remember protein is important throughout all our life stages, spread out over the day and more is not necessarily better, a balance of protein, carbohydrate and good fats is what we are looking for in our diet.

• Protein content of some foods (in grams)
• Chicken (100g), ~30g
• Beef (100g) ~28g
• Fish (100g) ~25g
• Yoghurt, (200g), 10g
• Cheese (20g, 1 slice) 5g
• Milk, (250ml, 1 cup) 12g
• Eggs, (1 medium), 7g
• Legumes (like chicken peas, kidney beans), (1 cup, 225g) 15g
• Nuts (almonds), (30g) 6g
• Pumpkin Seeds, (30g) 7g
• Edamame beans (1/2 cup) 9g
• Tofu.

Grains also have protein, just to a lesser extent. They do contribute in the overall diet as they make up a considerable amount of most people’s diets.

• Quinoa (½ cup) 4g
• Brown rice (1/2cup) 3g
• Pasta white (1/2 cup) 4g

Quinoa has all the essential amino acids this makes it popular as a grain protein source.

Back to main articles

Sign up for all the latest