What exactly is protein?
Protein is a nutrient that your body requires to develop and repair cells as well as function properly.
Protein may be found in a variety of foods, and it is critical that you receive enough protein in your diet on a daily basis. The amount of protein you require in your diet depends on your weight, gender, age, and health.
Eating a variety of foods is an easy way to meet your protein demands. Protein in diet originates from both plant and animal sources, including:
- eggs from meat and fish
- items made from milk
- legumes such as beans and lentils seeds and nuts
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.
Proteins are built up of amino acid building blocks. There are around 20 distinct amino acids that bind together in various combinations. They are used by your body to create new proteins such as muscle and bone, as well as other chemicals such as enzymes and hormones. It can also utilise them as a source of energy.
Some amino acids, known as non-essential amino acids, can be synthesised by your body. There are 11 of these. There are nine amino acids that your body cannot produce and are referred to as essential amino acids. You must incorporate enough of them in your diet for your body to function properly.
Dietary protein can be found in a variety of foods, including:
- Beef, lamb, veal, hog, and kangaroo are examples of lean meats.
- Poultry consists of chicken, turkey, duck, emu, goose, and bush birds.
- Fish and seafood include fish, prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, scallops, and clams, as well as eggs.
- Dairy items include milk, yoghurt (particularly Greek yoghurt), and cheese (especially cottage cheese).
- Almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, macadamias, hazelnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds are examples of nuts and seeds.
- All beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, and tofu are legumes and beans.
Some grain and cereal-based goods contain protein, but they are not as high in protein as meat and meat substitutes.
Getting insufficient protein (protein deficiency)
Protein shortage refers to a lack of protein in your diet. Protein deficit is uncommon in Australia, as the average Australian diet contains significantly more protein than we require. Protein deficit can arise in those with unique needs, such as the elderly and those who follow strict vegetarian or vegan diets.
- muscular tissue loss and shrinking oedema (build-up of fluids, particularly in the feet and ankles)
- Anaemia (the inability of the blood to carry enough oxygen to the cells, which is mainly caused by dietary deficiencies such as a lack of iron)
- slow expansion (in children).
Protein is important for maintaining muscle mass as you become older.
Humans begin to lose skeletal muscle mass at the age of 50. This is known as sarcopenia, and it is frequent in the elderly. Chronic illness, poor food, and inactivity all contribute to muscle mass loss.
Meeting the daily recommended protein intake may help you maintain muscular mass and strength. This is critical for maintaining your walking abilities and lowering your risk of harm from falls.
It is critical for older persons to consume protein ‘effectively’ in order to retain muscle mass. This includes eating high-quality protein items like lean meats.
Protein powders, drinks, and supplements
Protein smoothies, powders, and supplements are not required for the majority of Australians’ health needs. According to the results of the most recent national nutrition survey 99 percent of Australians receive adequate protein from their diet.
Any protein you consume in excess of what your body requires will be expelled as waste or stored as weight gain.
The best approach to acquire enough protein is to eat a range of protein-rich foods as recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines as part of a well-balanced diet. However, if you are still interested in taking protein smoothies, powders, and supplements, consult with your doctor first.
Protein and physical activity
It is recommended that you consume a serving of high-quality protein (such as a glass of milk or a tub of yoghurt) with a carbohydrate meal shortly after exercisingto assist maintain your body’s protein balance. This has been demonstrated in studies to be beneficial, even after low to moderate cardiovascular exercise (such as walking), particularly for older persons.
People who exercise vigorously or are attempting to gain muscular mass do not require more protein. Diets high in protein do not result in increased muscle mass. It’s the activation of muscle tissue through exercise, not increased dietary protein, which leads to muscle growth.
Protein’s nutritional value
The amount of necessary amino acids in a protein determines its nutritional value. The quantities of necessary amino acids in various diets vary. Generally:
- Animal products (such as chicken, cattle, fish, and dairy products) contain all of the required amino acids and are referred to be ‘complete’ proteins (or ideal or high-quality protein).
- All of the essential amino acids are also found in soy products, quinoa, and the seed of a leafy green called amaranth (which is popular in Asia and the Mediterranean).
- Plant proteins (beans, lentils, nuts, and whole grains) are called ‘incomplete’ since they lack at least one of the required amino acids.
To ensure an adequate balance of necessary amino acids, people who adopt a strict vegetarian or vegan diet must choose a variety of protein sources from a combination of plant foods every day.
If you adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can typically obtain enough protein if you eat a variety of foods. A meal rich in cereals and legumes, such as baked beans on toast, has all of the essential amino acids found in a conventional meat dish.
How to Meet Your Protein Requirements
Following the Australian Dietary Guidelines will allow you to easily meet your daily protein requirements. The Guidelines divide foods into five categories, each of which contains essential nutrients.
The following are the two main food types that contribute to protein:
- Group ‘lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans’
- ‘Milk, yoghurt, cheese, and/or alternatives (mainly low-fat)’ category.
The Guidelines prescribe specific servings per day from each of the five food groups as part of a healthy diet. Because the human body cannot store protein and will eliminate any excess, eating little amounts at each meal is the most effective approach to achieve your daily protein need.
PersonRecommended average daily number of serves of lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beansRecommended average daily number of serves of milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced fat)Men aged 19–50 years32 1/2Men aged 51–70 years2 1/22 1/2Men aged 70+ years2 1/23 1/2Women aged 19–50 years 2 1/22 1/2Women aged 51–70 years24Women aged 70+ years 24Pregnant women 3 1/22 1/2 Lactating women2 1/2 2 1/2
Diets high in protein are hazardous.
Some fad diets advocate exceptionally high protein intakes ranging from 200 to 400 g per day. This is more than five times the amount suggested by the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
The protein recommendations in the Guidelines are sufficient for body builders and athletes to develop and repair muscles.
A high-protein diet can be taxing on the kidneys and liver. It can also cause excessive calcium loss, which increases your risk of osteoporosis.