Protein is essential for various structural, functional and maintenance roles within the body. It plays a crucial role in bone, muscle, skin, hormonal and immune health. It is recommended to get 15-25% of your daily energy requirements from protein sources.
When protein is broken down into smaller components, these components are called amino acids. Amino acids are often referred to as the building blocks of protein.
The body can synthesize some amino acids on its own. These are known as non-essential amino acids.
There are some amino acids the body can’t derive on its own and therefore, food sources of these particular ‘essential amino acids’ must be consumed.
Animal protein sources such as meat, dairy and eggs contain all the essential amino acids.
Foods such as beans, nuts, seeds and wholegrains are high in protein although they are typically missing one of the essential amino acids, either lysine or methionine. That is why it is recommended to eat at least one lysine containing protein source and one methionine containing protein source across the day.
Grains tend to be lower in lysine but contain adequate levels of methionine whereas, legumes have higher levels of lysine but lower levels of methionine.
For individuals who don't eat meat it is recommended to combine the following for a complete protein:
· Legumes or lentils with nuts or seeds
· Legumes or lentils with grains
· Legumes or lentils with dairy
· Grain foods with dairy products
· Dairy with nuts and/or seeds
Complementary protein meal/Snack suggestions:
· Beans and rice
· Nut paste and wholegrain bread
· Soups or stews that contain both legumes and grains
· Hummus and pita bread
· Wholegrain cereal and milk
· Pasta and cheese
· Bean/lentil patty burgers (on wholegrain bread)
· Cheese toasted sandwich (on wholegrain bread)
· Tofu and barley/rice/amaranth
· Yoghurt and nuts
For guidance on complementary protein pairing book here for a consultation with a dietitian.