February, 2012

Feb 12

Protein Power

Protein Power

Whenever I have spoken to anyone about protein, the immediate reaction I get is “isn’t that for bodybuilders who spend their life flitting between the gym and the mirror?”.

In fact this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Why so important?

Protein originally comes from the Greek word ‘Protos’ meaning first and has an influence in all of our body’s cell processes. Digestion of protein occurs in your stomach and intestine. Here is where the protein is broken down into smaller units, called amino acids. Different types of amino acids are pieced together to make a number of combination’s  (like bricks building different shaped houses).

The body then uses these amino acids to make proteins it needs for life function.

Your body can produce some amino acids on its own but others have to be obtained from the diet through protein rich foods


So how much protein?

This varies when considering everyone is different but the recommended daily amount is roughly 30-40g according to The Food Standards Agency. New research shows individuals may require more than this to maintain body composition and mobility. Sufficient protein will assist the body to grow, repair, assist with the aging process and help keep you full (especially helpful in dieting).

What to look for?

When choosing meat, look for lean versions but vegetables can be limited due to being low in these building blocks needed to make whole proteins but one that tops the list is Quinoa (pronounced Keen-Wa); a high protein seed that is classed as a complete protein as it has all the building blocks. You can cook it just like rice or even buy Quinoa flakes to make as porridge.




Protein in meals can be fairly straight forward but what about some high protein snacks to keep you going. Below are a few ideas for packing in some protein in between meals:

  • A handful of mixed unsalted nuts and seeds (e.g. almond, brazil, walnut, hazelnut, sesame, flax, pumpkin, sunflower). Tip: carry a pot of mixed nuts around for hunger pangs or keep a pot on your desk at work.
  • Plain live natural (unsweetened) yoghurt with: a handful of seasonal berries (lower sugar e.g. blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries). Optional: one tablespoon of freshly ground seeds (50% linseed; 25% pumpkin; 25% sunflower) for additional fibre, protein and essential fatty acids.
  • Whey protein: Yes it’s not just for muscle boys, whey protein is produced from sweet whey, a natural by-product from cheese manufacturing where milk is separated into curds. Good brands isolate whey protein using a combination of Cross-Flow Ultrafiltration and Microfiltration techniques.  Nutri Ultrameal or Pulsin are some to think about. See below). Add to a smoothie or enjoy on its own. There are even non dairy alternatives.
  • 3 Oatcakes with
    • cottage cheese
    • hummus
    • nut butter (e.g. almond, peanut)
    • tuna (can buy tinned; but there are no omega 3 in tinned tuna)
    • smoked salmon
    • prawns
    • chicken slices
    • tinned sardines
  • Hummus – with raw vegetable sticks
  • Edamame (soy) beans
  • Hard boiled eggs




Food Standards Agency. (2006) FSA Nutrient and Food Based Guidelines for UK. Online: http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/nutguideuk.pdf

Herman J. (Date Unknown) Protein and the body. Online: http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-2473/T-3163web.pdf

Layman DK. (2009) Dietary Guidelines should reflect new understandings about adult protein needs. Nutrition & Metabolism, 6:12

Whey Protein:

Pulsin: http://www.pulsin.co.uk/

Nutri Ultra Meal http://www.nutri-online1.co.uk/Default.aspx?tabid=460 Call 0800 212 742 to order.


Feb 12

Stevia: A Sweet Truth

We live in a world of sugar. The amount of sugar consumed on a daily basis would put Hansel and Grettle to shame. We buy grilled chicken thinking we are being healthy but you turn over the packet to see it has been coated with a lovely glaze of brown sugar (I don’t know why they bother with brown, sugar is sugar). And all we do is go on about making sure we get low fat yoghurt, low fat cheese, low fat, low fat, low fat. The problem with ‘low fat’ versions of products generally replace fat content with sugar content, which most people are unaware of. Also, one major misconception is that all fats are bad, when often they are not the problem. We need fat in our diets and people need to realise that fat doesn’t necessarily make us fat. The one thing that has a huge impact on making many people fat is sugar. It has been argued that sugar may well be the most probable cause for many diseases in the 21st century.

In wartime we had sugar about but it was deemed a luxury and as such was rationed. Did we have the prevalence of heart disease or a diabetes epidemic as we do today? No, and the reason why was because sugar wasn’t used as it is in the quantities it is used today.

When the realisation that sugar was becoming the problem spread, along came diet foods and drinks with the lovely chemical sweeteners we know and love, such as aspartame. Aspartame is found in a lot of diet drinks and is used because it is zero calories and provides a sweet taste. However, there are a hugely debated risks such as cancer. So where is the balance? We shouldn’t eat sugar because it is going to make us ill and fat and we shouldn’t eat chemical sweeteners as they make us ill and may cause cancer.


Well, along comes Stevia…

 Image: Wikipedia

Originating from Paraguay and Brazil, Stevia is an effective natural noncaloric sweetener that is 300 times sweeter than refined sugar that is widely used in Asia, South America and has just arrived in the UK.

What differentiates Stevia from all the other sweeteners? According to an analysis of several studies, not only is Stevia considered a safe substitute for sugar, evidence shows it has supporting roles in diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammatory disease as well as supporting the immune system and acting as an antioxidant.

Stevia is now available in most supermarkets. Being so sweet, you will find other ingredients added to dilute the sweetness. Examples are Dextrose and Maltodextrin, both natural carbohydrates derived from corn. Do check the ingredients to ensure you are getting pure and natural ingredients and not added nasties and just because it’s a natural sweetener, it doesn’t mean we can open the top and eat with a spoon. It will still have an impact on the body so remember – little and often.

Back soon!


Reference: Thomas J, Glade M (2010) Stevia: It’s Not Just About Calories. The Open Obesity Journal, 2: p101-109.

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