The Macronutrient Series: All About Protein
According to Dietitians of Canada, protein is an essential nutrient that is a part of every cell in our body. Proteins are needed to repair muscle, tissue, skin, hair, and nails. They also play a vital role in fluid balance, immune system responses, the production of red blood cells, and more! As you can already see, consuming the appropriate amount of protein can ensure proper growth, development, and optimal functioning of your body!
Protein can be found in both animal and plant products (see table below). Animal products tend to have higher amounts of protein than plant sources, but animal products also tend to have higher amounts of saturated fat (unhealthy fat). We’ll discuss this topic further in our ‘All About Fats’ blog next week! Plant-based proteins are often less expensive than animal proteins, contain fibre, and are lower in saturated fats.
There are numerous ways to include plant-based proteins in your diet while still achieving adequate protein intake levels. If you are choosing packaged plant-based protein items (e.g. veggie burgers, vegan ground ‘meat’, etc), make sure to read the nutrition facts labels. Just because an item is plant-based, it does not mean it is always a healthier option when it comes to packaged food. Be aware of the added sodium, fillers & sugars!
When eating a balanced, healthy diet, most people will meet the recommended amount of protein if they regularly include any of the following food sources in their diet:
|Animal Protein||Plant Protein|
|Poultry: chicken, turkey, eggs||Legumes: black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, edamame beans, lentils|
|Red meat: beef, pork||Chickpeas and hummus|
|Dairy products: cheese, milk, yogurt||Nuts and nut butters: peanut, cashew, almond|
|Seafood: fish, lobster, crab, shrimp||Quinoa Seeds: chia seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds|
Dietitians of Canada recommends including a protein food at every meal and to aim for ¼ (one quarter) of your meal or plate to come from protein sources. It is also recommended to choose protein foods from plants more often and lower fat meat and dairy products where possible.
Here are some simple ways to include more protein in your diet:
- Swap regular snacks for high protein snacks
- Granola bar à Protein bar
- Chips à Roasted chickpeas
- Regular yogurt à Greek yogurt
- Ranch dip (for crackers and veggies) à Hummus
- Add nuts, seeds, and legumes to your meals:
- Add beans to soups, chili, pasta sauce
- Add nuts to salad, yogurt, oatmeal, homemade granola bars
- Add seeds or nut butter to smoothies, buy whole grain bread, add nuts to your morning cereal
- Include one protein food with each meal (breakfast, lunch, & dinner):
- Canada’s Food Guide recommends filling one quarter of your plate with a high quality, lean protein source: chicken, turkey, salmon, etc.
How to eat more protein: Tips and tricks. (2019, June 25). https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325552
Protein: Sources, deficiency, and requirements. (2020, November 25). https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/196279