Protein is made up of amino acids, some of which the body is able to produce itself and some of which we need to obtain from our diet.

The amino acids that we need to get from our diet are called essential amino acids. The best sources of essential amino acids are animal-based proteins like meat, eggs and poultry.  

What are good sources of protein?

 Animal-based sources of protein contain all the essential amino acids in adequate amounts – these are known as ‘complete’ protein sources. 

Plant-based sources of protein are deficient in at least one of the nine essential amino acids and are known as ‘incomplete’ protein sources.

It is important for vegans and vegetarians to combine and eat a wide variety of plant-based protein sources to make sure they are getting all of their essential amino acids through their diet. 

Popular protein sources include:

  • Beef (lean mince, steak, burgers, meatballs)
  • Chicken (fillets, sausages, burgers)
  • Turkey (fillets, mince, steaks, bacon rashers)
  • Fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, haddock, pollock, sea bream, prawns)
  • Dairy (milk, greek yoghurt, quark, cottage cheese, kefir) 
  • Eggs
  • Plant-based (tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils)
  • Protein powders (whey, soy, pea protein). 

Do you need to supplement with protein?

 Protein supplementation really depends on how much protein you are getting in your diet already. If you’re getting enough protein from whole foods, you don’t need to take any protein supplements.

 If you find it difficult to regularly hit your protein targets with whole foods, supplementing with a protein powder or bar can help. There are lots on the market and choosing the right one for you comes down to personal taste, lifestyle, budget and allergies. 

Building blocks

Protein is a building block for healthy bones, muscles, hair, teeth, cartilage, skin and blood. It is an important macronutrient as it contains essential amino acids that the body needs but cannot produce itself for use in many vital processes.

Protein is particularly important for building and repairing muscle, and preserving muscle mass during weight loss. If you exercise regularly it is important to make sure you get enough protein in your diet, especially if you are weight training and/ or trying to build lean muscle mass and strength.