Why is protein important?

Protein is essential for optimal health as it forms the building blocks for multiple functions in our bodies. Protein helps to maintain a healthy body composition and also helps to make hair, blood, connective tissue, antibodies and enzymes.

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is around 0.8g per kilo of body weight, which equates to a mere 48g for your average 60kg person. However, the RDA only looks at how much of a nutrient is required to meet basic nutritional requirements and to keep us alive, so in most cases we can eat a little more than the RDA.

On this note, it’s important to remember that a 100g portion of meat, does not contain 100g of protein. To put this into perspective, there is about 22g of protein in an 85g portion of meat. My recommendation is that we stick to 100 – 150g of protein for main meals and around 30g of protein per snack.

Protein consumption should ideally be spread out over the whole day and not consumed all at once.

Protein sources should also be varied for optimal nutritional value.

Complete protein sources include meat, fish, chicken, eggs, legumes, cheese, yoghurt and nuts& seeds. Some grains, like quinoa, contain a high protein value too.

Can we eat too much protein?

Many people consume way too much protein. Eating small portions of healthy sources of protein instead of low quality, refined carbohydrates, like white breads and sweets, is generally a healthier choice.

Protein consumption should be balanced with fruits and vegetables.

As a nation that enjoys eating braaied (or barbequed) meats, there is a tendency to consume more than one type of meat in one sitting and to overload the plate with meat, rather than vegetables and salads. This creates acidity in the body and places a lot of pressure on the digestive system. It also is more inflammatory by nature.

A reduction in protein consumption is always a good idea. Many people are leaning to a more plant-based way of eating, but extremes are not always necessary or sustainable. Ideally we should be aiming for balance and choosing a diet that supports health and wellbeing over the long-term.

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 0 August to learn more.

Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am