Protein helps us feel satisfied during – and after – meals. It also helps protect our lean body mass (think muscles and bones), while we’re losing weight.
Protein is the basic component of all living cells so it is vital that we eat some food containing protein every day because there is a constant turnover of tissues in the body there is a constant need to replenish it daily.
Our bodies need protein for growth and repair. too much on the other hand has been linked with kidney problems and osteoporosis so getting the balance right is important and that is more likely to happen when we eat a good variety of foods.
Protein is made up of amino acids and different proteins contain different amounts of the different amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids that are needed by our bodies and only 11 of these can be made in our bodies, the other 9 therefore must be provided by the foods you chose to eat – these 9 amino acids are called the essential amino aids
Although we think of meat, fish, eggs and cheese as “protein foods”, even people who eat meat and fish get some protein from other foods like bread, cereals and potatoes.
As vegans and vegetarians will only eat protein from non-meat sources they will need to take more care to make sure they are eating a variety of protein based foods. This is because some vegetable proteins are relatively lacking in one or another of the essential amino acids but a good variety of food choices will balance this out.
The following foods are good sources of protein.
- Dairy products – milk, yoghurt, cheese etc.
- Nuts and seeds
- Rice and grains
- Cereal-based foods – bread, pasta and breakfast cereals
- Pulses – beans, peas and lentils
- Soya mince/chunks (TVP)
When you add plenty of low calorie vegetables to lean protein-rich meals, casseroles, stews and soups it gives you more to eat, while keeping the calories low, and the extra volume helps keep you full and satisfied.
When you feel full and satisfied after a meal then you’re less likely to be tempted to snack unplanned later on high calorie foods.