Protein is the macronutrient du jour, due in large part to those ripped Insta influencers clutching their bowls of “proats”, aka protein oats (or porridge in old money). But here’s the thing: very few of us in the developed world are protein deficient. It’s recommended that 15 per cent of our daily calories comes from protein, which most of us meet easily. The problem is that much of our protein intake comes with a large side order of saturated animal fat, in the form of red meat.
As far as a healthy diet is concerned, the focus should be on eating more lean protein and getting our fat from dairy and plant-based sources such as nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil. So what exactly is lean protein and what does 15 per cent of our calorie intake look like? Follow these three easy guidelines for protein success.
1. Protein at every meal
The rule of thumb is to have one portion of lean protein with each meal. A portion in nutritional terms is a palm-sized amount of lean meat such as chicken or turkey, fish, eggs, tofu or beans/lentils. A protein perfect menu for the day would look something like this:
Breakfast: Toast one slice of good quality wholegrain bread, mash on quarter of an avocado, place a sliced boiled egg on top and add a handful of watercress.
Lunch: Mix a can of white beans with a can of tuna, sliced red onion and plenty of chopped salad veg (cucumber, peppers, carrots). Dress with one tsp olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Lovely on top of a seedy bread like pumpernickel, or with some rye crackers.
Dinner: Make a marinade with two tbsp harissa paste, one tbsp oil, juice of ½ a lemon, ½ tsp each of cumin, coriander and dried mixed herbs. Slather over chicken legs in a baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes at 220˚C fan. Serve with a selection of roasted vegetables such as sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, courgettes, tomatoes.
2. Eat more plant protein
Our diets tend to be skewed in favour of protein from animal sources, but researchers at Harvard University calculated that getting three per cent more of their total calories in the form of plant protein (like beans, nuts, and whole grains) lowered people’s risk for premature death by five per cent.
But unlike animal proteins, most plant proteins are not “complete”; in other words, they don’t contain all of the nine amino acids our bodies need, so the trick is to combine them. An easy way to do this is to include rice and pulses in the same meal, like the tasty African-Caribbean dish, rice and peas.
To make a simple version of this classic recipe, put a drained tin of kidney beans in a pan along with a tin of light coconut milk, ½ tsp mixed herbs, ½ tsp allspice, a few chopped spring onions and 125ml water. Bring to the boil and then add 200g rice and season well. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until tender.
There are however a few plant foods that are complete proteins, like quinoa, soy, hemp and chia seeds, which are a great addition to your store cupboard. You can make a quick chia pudding by combining one large ripe mashed banana, with 300ml milk (or nut milk), 50g chia seeds and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Divide the mixture between four small bowls or ramekins and place in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight, to set. Have with fresh berries.
3. Consider a protein powder
Protein powders have taken off in the past few years as the trendy way to shoehorn more protein into your diet, but it’s important to note that although they do obviously contain protein, most don’t have the additional vitamins and minerals that other protein-rich foods such as fish and pulses, do.
However, a good quality protein powder (without added sweeteners) can be an efficient way to include protein at breakfast time – a couple of scoops added to a morning smoothie will tick the protein box.
For anyone on a restrictive diet, for example vegans for whom animal proteins are off-limits, or those recovering from an injury or surgery who may need a temporary protein boost, protein powders are an easy way to achieve it.
But just a word of caution; when it comes to protein you can have too much of a good thing. Very high protein diets can lead to dehydration, which puts pressure on the kidneys, and to calcium loss. So make sure that you are still eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of complex carbs, healthy fats and colourful fruit and veg.
The Midlife Method: How To Lose Weight and Feel Great After 40 by Sam Rice is published by Hachette
Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/nutrition/diet/three-easy-ways-eat-lean-protein/833