Protein Explained

Protein Requirements

The body can only store a small pool of Amino Acids so we must replace them regularly through a protein rich diet. Ideally eat protein at least three times a day. The Australia Nutrition Society recommended 1gm of protein per 1kg of body weight per day (approximately 60-75 grams per day). Incorporating protein into every meal, as well as snacking on protein rich foods, helps to balance blood sugars and energy levels. Athletes need to increase their protein intake substantially (1.2 to 1.6 grams x kg).

Where can I get protein? (NB: Ex = an excellent source of protein)

Animal Legumes Nuts Seeds Grains (minimal)
Fish – tuna, cod,
Lentils Almonds Sunflower Brown Rice (Ex)
Eggs Soy Products –
Tofu (Ex)
Brazils Sesame Oats
Meat Kidney Beans Cashews Pumpkin Wheat / Germ
Poultry Lima Beans Walnuts Flaxseed Corn
Dairy Products –
yoghurt, cheddar,
cottage, edam
Chick Peas Pecans Linseeds Millet
Mung Beans Hazel Nuts Rye
Adzuki Beans Pistachios Barley
Broad Beans Macadamias Buckwheat
Black eye beans Quinoa (Ex)
Clean Lean Protein


Complete Protein

A Complete Protein is a food that contains all 9 Essential Amino Acids. These are called ‘Essential’ Amino Acids because we cannot manufacture them in the body, so it is ‘essential’ that we get them through the diet. Examples of complete proteins containing all the 8 essential amino acids include; eggs, milk, fish, cheese, poultry and meat.

Protein Combining

Other forms of protein derived from plant sources, such as grains, legumes, nuts and seeds have most of the 9 Essential Amino Acids and can be combined effectively to create complete proteins. You need to eat them in the same day, not necessarily in the same meal. However, traditional society’s protein combine at each meal; eg Mexico; beans, rice and corn, India; dahl and rice, The Middle East; Hommus and tabouli, Asia: rice and soya beans/products.

Other examples of protein combining that create complete proteins include; Hommus (chick peas & sesame seeds), ABC nuts (almonds, brazil & cashew nuts together), porridge & soy milk, rice and lentils. Basically any legume combined with any grain will allow your body to form a complete protein.

Dangers and Symptoms of Protein in Excess

  • Creates undesirable end products which the liver and kidneys have to filter – can lead to kidney and liver problems
  • Fluid imbalance / Constipation – protein metabolism requires 7 times more water than carbohydrates.
  • Increased risk of Osteoporosis – blood becomes highly acidic with a high protein diet so calcium is leeched from bones to neutralise the blood – leading to weaker bones
  • Strong body odour as protein is high in nitrogen

Dangers and Symptoms of Protein Deficiency

  • Lack of strength
  • Frequent infections such as cold and flue
  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Irritability, mood changes, depression
  • Tooth decay, allergies and acne
  • Poor wound healing – dry and flaky skin
  • Fluid retention / Diarrhoea
  • Bloating and poor digestion

Estimated Protein content in foods

FOOD PROTEIN (grams) CARBS (grams) FAT (grams)
Anchovies (5) 20g 5.8 0 2.0
Chicken breast 100g cooked 20-25 0 5
Lean Beef or Lamb 120grams 25 0 11-15
Chicken sausage 100g 18 5 16
Fish 120g 20 0 12-20
Snapper / Swordfish 85g 21 0 10
Salmon 100g 25 0 9
Oysters 50g (raw) 6 .4 1
Tuna 100g (canned) 25 0 3
1 egg 50g (raw) 5-6 .2 5
2 egg whites 70 g (raw) 7-8 .2 0
Cottage cheese 100g 15-8 2-4 2
Ricotta cheese (246 g) 28 10 19
Yoghurt (plain-lowfat) 1/c 11.9 16 3.5
Yoghurt (skim-plain) 1cup 13 17 .4
Yoghurt (fruit-lowfat) 1/c 13 42 2
Milk 250ml lowfat 2% 11 15 4
Soymilk 250ml 7 7 5
Feta cheese 28g 4 1 6
Feta reduced fat 28g 8 0 4
Mozzarella 28g 5.5 6 6.1
Mozzarella (skim) 28g 6.9 1 4.5
Cheese reduced fat 21g 4 .9 3
Edam cheese 30g 8 0 8
Haloumi cheese 30g 6 .5 5
Tofu 100 grams 12 1 7
Almonds 33g / Nuts 6.6 1 17
Cashews 25g (raw) 4 4 12
Sunflower seeds 33g 7.6 1 17
Baked beans 220g 20 45 17
Kidney beans 175g 6.7 20 0.5
Peanut butter 1 Tbs 5-7 4 11
Pine Nuts 33 g 4.3 1.6 23.3
Keto bar (Metagenics) 18 20 6
Burgen Bread – soy and linseed 2 slices 11.5 22 7.2
Breads 2 slices (white & whole meal) 2-6 24-36 2-3
Quinoa 85g (dry) 12 55 5.2
Brown rice 1/2 cup cooked 2.3 22.9 0.8
White rice 1/2 cup cooked 2.1 22.3 0.2
French bread 100g 9 53 4
Almond Friand 70g 5 25 18
Pasta 100g 12 73 2
Muesli (not toasted) 100g 11 65 9
Muesli (toasted) 100g 9 53 23
Rolled oats 100g 11-14 60 9
Wheat bran 25g 3-4 3 1
Crunchy Nut Cornfl akes 100g 7 83 5
Kellogg’s Just Right 100g 8 81 2
NuZest’s Clean Lean Protein (per 25g serve) 22 .67 .33

This article written by

Kira Sutherland – BHlthSci DipNat GDipNutr, naturopath, sports nutrition, lecturer

More articles by Kira Sutherland


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