Where do you get your protein? This is a question most juicers, and indeed vegetarians and vegans, will often hear. Well, here is another question: what do dried apricots, sprouts, oats and avocados have in common? It may surprise many, but they are all excellent sources of protein.
When most people think about protein their minds instantly go to eggs, meat, fish and dairy.
Many plant-based foods, such as beans, nuts, lentils, beetroot, spinach, kale and edamame beans can be equally protein-packed.
Most people in Britain eat more protein than they need. The British Dietetic Association recommends a daily intake of 45g and 55g of protein for the average woman and man respectively. But according to the British Nutrition Foundation the average protein intake per day is 88g and 64g for men and women.
Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California says “People need to switch to a diet where only around nine or ten percent of their calories come from protein, and the ideal sources are plant-based.”
Protein needs depend on our age, size, height and activity level. Levels peak at key periods of muscle and bone growth, while lactating women need to consume 20 per cent more protein than usual. However, the Government body the Food Standards Agency gives only a basic guideline or recommended daily allowance of protein. So why do we need it, and what do we need it for?
Is All Protein Equal?
Protein is not one thing – it’s the name given to naturally occurring chains of molecules known as amino acids. There are two types of amino acids: those manufactured in the body (non-essential amino acids), and those that can come only from food (essential amino acids). Our cells, tissues and organs cannot function without them – half our body’s dry weight is made from protein. The combinations of amino acids provided by different foods vary, which is why it is important to consume a varied diet.
For example, quinoa contains all nine of the essential amino acids required by the body, making it a complete source of protein. So too are chickpeas, the main ingredient in humous.
A cooked 100g chicken breast has, on average, 22g of protein. By comparison here is the typical amount of protein in 100g of raw ingredients:
- Sunflower seeds – 23.4g
- Almonds – 21.1g
- Quinoa – 18.4g
- Edamame beans – 14g
- Oats – 11g
- Avocado – 10g
- Lentils – 9g
- Chickpeas – 8.5g
- Broccoli – 4.4g
- Brussel sprouts – 3.5g
- Kale – 3.4g
- Spinach 2.8g
- Dried apricots – 2.6g
- Beetroot – 1.7g
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