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What type of protein should I eat?

It is important to get a well-balanced mix of essential, semi and non-essential proteins as part of a good protein profile from your diet. Research shows that the body does not require all essential and semi-essential amino acids at every meal because you can utilize amino acids from recent meals to form complete proteins so you should be aiming to get complete protein combinations over a 24-hour period.

Foods that contain all nine essential amino acids in roughly equal amounts are referred to as complete proteins. Complete protein sources mainly come from animal sources such as meat, seafood, eggs, milk and whey (a by-product of cheese production). If you do eat animal meat, then try to choose high quality meat and limit your red meat and processed meat intake.

Red meats are commonly red when raw such as beef, pork, and lamb compared with white meats which are generally poultry. The biggest difference between the two is white meat is a leaner source of protein with a lower fat content. Processed meats are any meats that have been modified to improve their taste or extend their shelf life through curing, smoking, salting, fermenting, drying or canning such as sausages, bacon and salami. These red and processed meats are devoid of fiber, high in salt and high in saturated fat which can raise your risk of certain cancers, heart disease and other health concerns. Industrially produced meat can also contain additional animal hormones and chemicals which can increase your risk of cancer so if you are able to try and choose organic and free-range.

There are also a few plant-based foods that contain all nine essential amino acids such as nuts, seeds, soy, quinoa and buckwheat. However, many plant-based proteins are not complete proteins and only contain a few of the essential amino acids such as beans, grains, legumes and vegetables. You can combine incomplete protein sources to create a complete protein source for example by eating beans with rice, peanut butter with whole grain bread or macaroni with cheese.

The reality is that most sources of protein will have enough of all the different amino acids so as long as you are getting your protein from a good range of sources you don’t need to worry too much about your protein profile unless you are an athlete.

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