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How To Incorporate More Protein Into Your Diet

Proteins serve as the basic structural material of the body, as well as being biochemical catalysts and gene regulators—making it an essential building block to your fertility and the healthy baby of your dreams.

Why is protein important in the body?

Along with water, protein constitutes the major part of muscles, bones, internal organs (including reproductive!), and skin, nails, and hair. Protein is also an important part of cell membranes and blood (e.g. haemoglobin). Enzymes, which act as catalysts for chemical reactions in the body are also proteins, as are antibodies, the collagen in connective tissue, and many hormones, such as oestrogen and testosterone, which are vital for optimum health and fertility. Essentially, a cell’s mass comprises approximately 50% fat and 50% protein.

Tissues throughout the body require ongoing repair and replacement, so the body’s protein is turning over constantly, being broken down and then re-synthesised as needed. During periods of rapid growth, pre-conception, pregnancy and lactation, recuperation after illness or depletion (e.g. vegetarianism), the need for protein consumption is increased.

What are the best sources of protein?

The relative proportion of different amino acids, the building blocks of protein, varies from food to food. Foods of animal origin—meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products—are sources of good quality, complete protein.

This means their essential amino acid patterns are similar to human needs. Foods of plant origin are lower quality, or incomplete protein sources. However, a varied and well-thought out vegetarian diet can fulfil human requirements if the protein-containing foods are balanced and their essential amino acids complement each other.

For example, legumes such as beans are high in lysine and low in methionine, while grains are the opposite. Thus, if beans and rice are eaten over the course of a day, their amino acid patterns will complement each other and provide a higher quality protein than either food alone. Traditional food patterns in native cultures have made good use of such protein-combining principles. Of course, careful balancing of plant proteins is necessary only for those whose protein intake is marginal or inadequate.

eggs are good source of protein

What’s the ideal protein intake?

The World Health Organisation recommends a daily intake of 0.75 grams of good quality protein per kilogram of body weight for adults of both sexes. Thus, a 70kg man would need 52.5 grams of protein, and a 65kg woman would need about 48.7 grams of protein. Infants, children, and pregnant and lactating women have additional protein needs (at least 1.5 grams per kg of body weight) to support synthesis of new tissue and/or milk production.

This essentially means eating some protein at each meal (e.g. organic chicken, beef, fish, lamb, game meats, eggs, legumes, gluten-free grains etc.) of approximately the size and thickness of the palm of your hand. The more variety in your intake the better. It’s that simple!

Here are some lovely protein rich recipes for you to enjoy!

Nut-Crusted Vegetable Pots

Makes: 4 servings.

  • 150 g baby eggplant, sliced
  • 150 g zucchini, sliced
  • 150 g baby yellow squash, sliced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or preferably coconut oil)
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 30 g flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 150 g raw almonds, whole or crushed
  • 8 gluten-free crackers, crushed
  • Cooking spray, extra virgin olive oil (or preferably coconut oil)
  • 4 tbsp pesto

Method of Preparation

Preheat oven to 180 °C.

Place eggplant, zucchini, baby yellow squash and tomatoes in a baking pan. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic and half the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Roughly chop tomatoes and divide the vegetables between 4 ramekin dishes. Drizzle over vinegar. Mix parsley, almonds and crackers in a small bowl and sprinkle over the vegetables. Spray the vegetables and topping lightly with virgin olive oil cooking spray and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes.

Serve hot with pesto.

Spicy Baked Beans

Makes: 4 servings.

  • Cooking spray, extra virgin olive oil (or preferably coconut oil)
  • ¼ onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ¼ tsp chilli powder
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  • 400 g zucchini, halved and sliced lengthwise in large pieces
  • 240 ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 300 g butter beans, cooked and drained

Method of Preparation

Lightly oil a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, coriander seeds, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, chilli powder, salt and pepper and sauté for 2 minutes. Add zucchini and 2 tablespoons of vegetable stock to the pan and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, celery, butter beans and remaining stock. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Brown Lentils and vegetable patties

Makes: 4 servings.

Patties:

  • 300 g brown lentils, cooked and drained
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 60 g spring onions, finely chopped
  • 180 g zucchini, grated
  • 3 tsp ground coriander
  • 3 tsp garam masala
  • 15 g fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh chives, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or preferably coconut oil)

Baba ghanoush:

  • 1 eggplant (large), roasted whole until soft
  • 60 ml lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp salt

Method of Preparation

Place half the lentils into a food processor and process to a smooth paste. Place in bowl and add remaining lentils, garlic, spring onions, zucchini, coriander, garam masala, parsley and chives. Mix to combine. Using your hands, form the mixture into 4 equal-sized flat patties. Lightly oil a frying pan and brown patties on both sides over medium heat.

To prepare the baba ghanoush, place eggplant (minus the skin), lemon juice, tahini, garlic and salt in food processor. Pulse ingredients until the mixture is a smooth paste.

Serve lentil patties on salad and top with baba ghanoush.

For more tips about high protein foods and protein rich recipes, please checkout our blog.

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