Protein is a source of energy but its main role in the body is growth and repair.
It helps in the formation of muscles, hair, nails, skin and organs, such as the heart, kidneys and liver. We all contain a significant amount of protein. For example, a 76kg man is made up of 12kg of protein (16%).
Which foods contain protein?
Protein is made up of 20 amino acids, some of which our body can make and others we have to obtain from food. Protein is found in both animal and plant foods.
- Animal sources: meat, fish, chicken, eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt.
- Plant sources: soy protein (such as soy beans, tofu and soy milk), grains (quinoa, oats, barley, etc), nuts and pulses (dried beans, peas and lentils).
All animal foods, as well as two plant sources -soy protein and quinoa – provide all the necessary amino acids required by the body for good health and these are called essential amino acids. All other plant-based sources of protein lack one or more of the amino acids we need to obtain from our food. People who do not eat any animal products (vegans) should include a variety of plant sources of protein every day to ensure they obtain all the essential amino acids.