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Thursday, 3 June 2010

All protein is not the same

I was discussing with a client what good sources of protein would be for breakfast. A gym member overheard our discussion and mentioned that yoghurt would be a good alternative. Although, technically she was correct, eating yoghurt for the purpose of getting a dose of protein is a waste of time and here is why.

Protein consists of amino acids which are the building blocks of life. Different permutations exist in foods which are split into 2 categories. Complete and incomplete. We need complete protein for the body to assimilate it into tissue. Animal based protein is a complete source, however, most plant based protein isn't. Whether you are a body builder or stay at home parent, we all need protein. Here are some of the symptoms of a lack of protein in your diet:

Thinning or brittle hair; ridges in toenails; light skin which burns easily in the sun; general weakness; slowness in healing; difficulty in sleeping; fainting.


The amount depends on your activity level. Active people and pregnant women need more protein as there is more building and breakdown occurring. Pregnant women in particular need more as there are huge amounts of energetic growth occurring for both the fetus and the mother. It helps to regulate appetite as well as getting more omega 3 in your diet (grass fed cattle). Inadequate protein consumption leads to cetabolism which contributes to high cholesterol and an acidic environment which are the conditions in which disease tends to flourish.

15-35% of our diet should be protein. Currently it is far less. We currently consume protein and don't consider what I call the 'protein hit' of food. We hear the word protein and think that we have consumed sufficient amounts.

This is the protein hit Per 100g

Turkey 35g (breast)
venison 35g
chicken 32g (breast)
Halibut 25g
eggs 12.5
cheese 12.5 (cottage)
yoghurt 4

The most obvious thing you should notice is that the protein content in meat is much higher. Even though I haven't stated it, dairy will have higher saturated fat levels than lean meats. If you think you are eating yoghurt for it's protein content, you might as well eat a caterpillar. If you cut meat out of your diet, be aware you are massively reducing your protein intake which will be hard to replace. The average person would need to consume around 6 tins of chickpeas to get their minimum protein intake. Exercisers would need 10+ tins! You would also need to replace iron, zinc, vitamin B12, B6, just to name a few. I forgot to mention that as wheat, nuts and beans are types of incomplete proteins, up to 50% of the protein is lost during the process, so you may need more! There is a reason why a crocodile eats once a year and a horse eats all the time.

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