The Health Benefits and Importance of Eating Protein

Discover the benefits of eating protein, sustainable sources, and simple tips for including more plant-based protein in your diet.  

Protein provides the essential building blocks for life. It keeps you fuller for longer, boosts energy, supports weight loss and helps tone your muscles. Plant-based protein is an increasingly popular option. It offers additional nutritional content, environmental benefits, and a flavourful variety of choice. 

Learn more about how much protein you need and why plant-based snacking is the perfect protein top-up.  Find simple tips to include more plant-based protein in your diet.  

Why does your body need protein?  

Protein is an essential building block in the body.  It is found throughout the body, in muscle, bone, skin, hair, connective tissues, neurotransmitters and more. Protein is a macronutrient that needs to be obtained through diet. It is key to providing essential amino acids in the body, which is necessary for building and repair. 

Protein is well known for supporting muscle growth; however, it’s also utilized in numerous other bodily functions. Some of these include: tissue repair and production of enzymes, hormones, and haemoglobin. It’s very important to get enough protein in your diet to support your body in feeling strong, energised, and healthy. This often can be overlooked.

Muscles are actually the biggest organs in our body. The more muscle you have, the stronger you are to fight off disease and illness. Muscles are a reservoir of amino acids and a key to longevity. ~ Dr Gabrielle Lyon, a functional medicine physician with a private practice called Muscle-Centric Medicine.

How much protein do you need?  

This varies widely, as each person has individual needs. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8g per kilogram of body weight each day. Simply multiply your weight in kg by 0.8 to get your RDA (recommended daily allowance). For example, if you are 70kgs, you need 56g protein per day. 

The catch is that the RDA is the minimum amount of protein needed to avoid getting sick, not the amount needed for optimal health. ~ Dr Mark Hyman, an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, author, and advocate in the field of Functional Medicine.

30 years ago, one RDA for protein was set for everyone over the age of 18. The target was set as a minimum to avoid illness. This amount still stands today, which is 46g for women and 56g for men.  However, many experts believe you need more protein for optimal health, some saying up to twice that amount. 

Protein requirements increase as we age, because the body is less efficient in processing and utilizing it. Studies show that when more protein is consumed in mid-life, it supports a higher functioning body later in life. This includes maintaining normal bodily functions, walking and moving, and a lower amount of negative health conditions. 

Adding more protein to your diet.  

Let’s look at different protein sources, which are most sustainable and how to add these foods to your diet. 

The Source Matters  

The source of the protein you eat is important. When choosing your source, these are the things to think about:

  • How many grams of protein will it offer and is the body able to utilize it? 
  • Does the food offer other useful micronutrients such as fat, fibre, omegas, minerals, or vitamins? 
  • Is it a complete protein, which contains all 20+ types of amino acids? Or is it an incomplete protein, meaning it lacks one or more of the nine essential amino acids?
  • Is it a sustainable source of the protein, not only to the planet but to your budget?

Animal vs Plant Protein  

There are pros and cons to both animal and plant-based protein. A flexitarian diet has the advantage of including both to ensure adequate amounts of protein are reached. 

Animal sourced protein offers a complete protein which contains all the amino acids, including the essential amino acids, zinc and B12. It also has a higher amount of protein per gram. When choosing animal based protein, consider its source and upgrade to organic or at least grass-fed when you can. 

Plant-based proteins can lack one or more essential amino acids. It’s important to consume a variety of plant-based sources daily to make up the total amount of amino acids required. There is a variety of plant sources to choose from and with our tips below, this becomes achievable, not complicated. Plant sources also have the benefit of additional macro and micronutrients such as fibre, fats, minerals, and vitamins. 

Sustainable Protein  

Sustainable protein takes into consideration the effect on the planet to produce it. Concentrated animal farming is a major contributor to GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, which tends to be higher than plant-based agriculture. So, including plant-based protein for all or some of your protein source is going to support a sustainable future. Remember, whatever protein source you choose, if it’s organically grown it will support your health and the planet. Learn more about the benefits of eating organic here.

For more detailed information, this scorecard illustrates the different GHG emissions per gram of protein of animal and plant-based protein foods.   

Everyday Sources of Plant-based Protein  

You may be surprised to find there are numerous plants that offer protein. There are even complete protein plant sources, such as quinoa, chia seeds, spirulina, peas, and hemp. If you get all your protein from plant sources, be mindful when planning your meals to include plenty of variety.

Did you know 90% of the pea is protein, which is highly bio-available and contains all nine essential amino acids?

Here is a list of plant-based protein ideas to get you started.

  • Legumeslentils, beans, peas (Did you know 90% of the pea is protein, which is highly bio-available and contains all nine essential amino acids?), soybeans and peanuts. Find pea protein in our new Probiotic Protein Bars
  • Nuts and Seeds: almonds, brazil nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and buckwheat. 
  • Hemp is a very sustainable crop. Hemp protein powder has a high protein content, while hemp seeds for combination of protein and omegas. 
  • Whole Grainsquinoa offers a complete protein, while other grains are best to mix with another plant source such as beans. 
  • Vegetables include smaller amounts of protein, however corn, broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts and artichokes have higher amounts.

What makes protein the perfect snack?  

Snacking on protein is an effective way to meet your dietary protein target. This acts as a top up to the protein you get at mealtime. Protein makes you feel fuller and in turn cuts out extra grazing. This reduces calorie intake and can support weight loss. Happy snacking!

Tips on Getting Protein from Plants  

  1. Eat nuts! Snack on them, sprinkle on salads, add to stir fries, and use them in baking, bliss balls or trail mix. 
  2. Use organic nut and seed butters regularly. Spread tahini or peanut butter on toast, apples, or celery. Use it in baking, protein energy balls, dressings or even to dip your favourite chocolate in. We love these Easy No Bake Protein Balls – 4 ways!
  3. Include organic beans in your diet each week. 
  4. Chia pudding is delicious any time of the day – breakfast, lunch or dessert! Check out these 10 Ways to Eat Chia Seeds
  5. Snack on roasted chickpeas. They are easy to make and take on any spice you add. 
  6. Grab a protein bar or trail mix for on the go. Check the ingredients are simple, clean and suitable for your diet. Chantal Organics Probiotic Protein Bars are 100% plant-based and have 10g protein per bar. 

Your age and level of activity will help you determine how much protein you need. Think about your personal dietary choices and where you want to get your protein from. Keep in mind, that choosing organic sources of protein will help to minimize the amount of potentially harmful chemicals. Experiment with different sources of protein, when you eat it and how you feel. Go with what works best for you!

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PRODUCTS MENTIONED

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Hemp Protein Powder
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Choc Almond Probiotic Protein Bar
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Lentils
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Classic Crunchy Peanut Butter
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Hemp Seeds
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Whole Tahini
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Chickpeas
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Almond Butter

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