Protein is a vital nutrient and an important part of our diet.
But exactly is protein? And which foods are high in protein?
What is protein?
Protein is made up of amino acids, which essentially help to maintain and grow muscle tissues in the body, including muscles.
Many of the enzymes needed for important chemical reactions are made up of proteins.
Haemoglobin is a protein, which carries oxygen to the cells.
Protein is a macronutrient, as are carbohydrates and fats. They can provide energy and calories.
Not getting enough protein in your diet can lead to protein deficiency, which can result in your body not being able to function normally.
The best sources of high protein
According to the NHS’ Eatwell Guide to maintain a balanced diet, a person should eat meat, fish, eggs, dairy and other protein rich foods.1
These have the largest number of amino acids, which contain the highest nutritional value.
Some of the best protein foods include come from dairy, such as yoghurt and cheese.
Eggs are one of the best sources of protein and therefore, if you are looking to increase your protein intake, eggs make an easy and nutritious addition to your diet.
Not only do they also contain vitamins but eggs also provide omega-3 fatty acids.
Meat also provides much needed vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc, and B vitamins3 .
A healthier option would be to opt for lean meats, since they are high in protein but low in unsaturated fat.
The NHS recommends that people should eat at least two portions of fish a week and at least one oily fish.4
Like eggs, oily fish contain omega-3s fatty acids. These include herring, salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel.
Oily fish contain vitamin D, which helps to maintain healthy bones and teeth5 .
Nuts and Seeds
If you do not want to snack on meat, nuts and seeds are also good protein sources and high in essential amino acids.
Eating these as opposed to unhealthy snacks such as crisps or sweets, can help you to maintain a healthy weight and avoid excess calorific food.
Lentils, chickpeas, tofu, oats, turkey and chicken breast are also all good high protein foods.
The so called superfood, quinoa, is another great option for protein. It is a rich source of a number of nutrients. There are many benefits to eating quinoa and if you are unfamiliar with this food, there are plenty of recipe ideas too.
Of course, it is important to eat certain food groups in moderation.
Avoiding unsaturated fats and processed meat while consuming high protein foods and exercising should help you maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
However, eating too many saturated fats can lead to health problems and can lead to you being overweight.
What is a protein diet?
Following a high protein diet will give you the energy needed to work out and exercise. They involve eating protein meals daily.
Those looking to gain muscle, body build or take part in sports typically go on protein diets – often through consuming additional supplements or protein snacks, such as bars, or shakes.
However, women who are trying to gain muscle, or body build may find it harder to so. This is due to the lower amount of testosterone present, which means that putting on weight through protein supplements or shakes could be easier than building muscle through strength exercises.
There are plenty of ways to pack protein into your daily diet as well as lots of meal ideas and foods that can be bought that contain high amounts of protein.
The Atkins and South Beach Diet are examples of plans that encourage you to eat more protein rich foods.
Based on your age, gender, level of activity/exercise, there is a specific protein requirement needed for your body to function normally.
If you are looking to start a high protein diet or want to take supplements, it is advised to contact a dietician or nutritionist to create personalised meal plans and specific protein intake catered to your body’s needs.
You can be given a guideline to follow, which will give you an indication of how much protein to have on a daily basis.
Last Updated: 8th January 2021