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   Nov 25

Need more protein? ‘Ave an avocado! (or a bagel, a sprout, even a dried apricot: The VERY surprising sources of this crucial nutrient

Unexpected sources of protein include beetroot, avocado and kale

Protein needs are based on age, size and activity level

Bad skin, thinning hair and anemia are signs of protein deficiency

‘Ave it: Avocados are a great vegetarian source of protein
What do dried apricots, bagels, sprouts, oats and avocados have in common?

Surprisingly, they are all excellent sources of one of the body’s most essential nutrients – protein.

More obvious sources are eggs, meat, dairy, fish, cereals, grains, beans, nuts and lentils.
But many other vegetarian foods, such as beetroot, spinach, kale and Victoria Beckham’s favourite snack – edamame beans (fresh soya), can be equally protein-packed.

Protein needs depend on our age, size, height and activity level.

Levels peak at key periods of muscle and bone growth, while lactating women need to consume 20 per cent more protein than usual.

However, the Government body the Food Standards Agency gives only a basic guideline or recommended daily allowance of protein. So why do we need it, and what do we need it for?


Protein is not one thing – it’s the name given to naturally occurring chains of molecules known as amino acids.

There are two types of amino acids: those manufactured in the body (non-essential amino acids), and those that can come only from food (essential amino acids).

Our cells, tissues and organs cannot function without them – half our body’s dry weight is made from protein.

The combinations of amino acids provided by different foods vary, which is why nutritionists say it’s important to consume a range of animal and non-animal sources.

For example, quinoa contains all nine of the essential amino acids required by the body, making it a complete source of protein.
So too are chickpeas, the main ingredient in houmous.

Eat a bagel (typically containing 10g of protein) spread with houmous and you have consumed at least 20g of protein. The flour in bagels is a high-gluten type, which gives them their chewy texture – and gluten is a protein, making them surprisingly handy in a protein-rich diet.


If your children eat only peas as vegetables, that’s not a bad start – one cup of boiled peas contains 9g of protein and the daily intake required is up to 28g, according to their age. But include kidney beans in a veggie chilli and you’ve added 13.4g of protein.

You can also include sunflower seeds in home-made muesli or flapjacks as, according to howmuch protein.com, these humble seeds are ‘almost the equivalent of steak or chicken breast for protein content’.


The message about the variety of protein sources is still not getting through, says nutritional therapist Jackie Lynch, who finds that the majority of clients at a first consultation are not eating enough of it.

‘Professional women especially wonder why they are tired,’ says Jackie. ‘Protein is vital for growth and repair in the body, but they are consuming protein at best once a day instead of at every meal.’


Jackie recommends the following as an example of a protein-packed daily menu.

Breakfast: Porridge (oats) made with soya or almond milk with sunflower seeds, or a smoothie made from avocado, blueberries and sunflower seeds.

Lunch: Cottage cheese or avocado with salad; lentil soup.

Snacks: Handful of apricots/handful of almonds/edamame beans/ low-fat cottage cheese on oatcakes.

Evening meal: Chickpea curry with spinach and broccoli.


Hair, teeth, skin and nails – not to mention brain cells and bones – are all protein-based. A deficiency in protein can lead to lacklustre skin, nails that break easily, and thinning hair. More serious conditions include slow growth in children and oedema, a build-up of fluids in the feet and ankles.
Anaemia is another sign of deficiency.


A higH-protein diet – such as the Atkins or Dukan – with an intake of more than 200g per day can strain the kidneys and liver, which are forced to process and eliminate high quantities of protein by-products.

‘Protein causes an acidic reaction in the body,’ says nutritionist Marilyn Glenville. ‘Calcium acts to neutralise it and your body summons calcium from your bones to correct the imbalance.

Once it’s done its job, the calcium is then eliminated from the body through your urine. Studies have shown that a high protein intake increases the excretion of calcium through urine.’

The knock-on effect of losing this calcium could be bone problems or even osteoporosis in later life.

A 1996 Harvard study found that women who ate more than 100g of animal protein a day were more likely to suffer fractures – a sign of brittle bones – compared with women who ate less than 68g per day. However, those who ate only non-animal protein did not suffer the same increased risk, no matter how much protein they ate.

More from Jackie Lynch at well-well-well.co.uk and Dr Marilyn Glenville at marilynglenville.com.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2512332/Need-protein-Ave-avocado–bagel-sprout-dried-apricot-The-VERY-surprising-sources-crucial-nutrient.html#ixzz2leI48d1v

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