When 'protein' is mentioned, more often than not, we think of craving a nice big juicy steak, with creamy peppercorn sauce, buttered spinach and.............oh my, it must be near lunchtime!
And for good reason. Protein is an essential pillar of our nutrition.
It is a major component of all things structural: bones, hair, nails, blood, skin, arteries and is also essential to our immune system, nervous system, digestion and hormones. So a useful little fellah to have about.
Interesting, however, the amount of protein we need on a daily basis is not that huge. It's about 0.75g of protein per kilo weight for an adult, and about 1g per kilo weight for a child. So, a 65kg woman requires about 50g of protein per day. Meat is about 20% protein, nuts and seeds are between 10% to 30% protein and beans are about 20% as well.
Protein is great for slowing down digestion, meaning a slower release of energy from our food. So a little bit at every meal is a good idea.
When we eat protein, it is broken down, during digestion, into it's component parts, amino acids, which our bodies can then re-assemble, as required. A bit like Lego.
While meat is a fantastic source of protein, delivering all 8 of the 'essential' amino acids that out bodies needs (it can manufacture the other 12+), over-consumption can lead to other problems, such as heart disease, osteoporosis, liver and kidney problems and some cancers.
As a result, it's a good idea to have a think about some alternatives to meat:
Eggs: brilliant source of protein, containing all 8 essential amino acids
Beans & lentils: also a good source of protein, especially lentils. Start off with a lovely creamy hummus from Ottolenghi and take it from there.
Nuts & seeds: great source of protein, especially pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and peanuts. Why not try making some home-made nutella, nut & seed granola, or raw chocolate brownie, all packed with nuts and seeds.
Dairy: while cheese is a known 'good source of protein', milk and yogurt also contribute about 4% to 6% in protein per portion.
Fish: a great source of protein, especially sardines and mackerel.
Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be looking at each of these sources and providing recipes to incorporate them into your diet, so stay tuned!