What is protein? Once protein is eaten (chicken, lentils etc…), digested and absorbed, it breaks down into amino acids. These amino acids can join together to make thousands of different proteins, There are 22 of them, which are important to human health. 8 out of these 22 are classed as essential (can only be obtained from food).
Why is it important? Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a “macronutrient,” meaning that the body needs relatively large amounts of it. Unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore has no reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply. So it is important to include protein in your diet every day.
Meat and dairy are good for protein, but what if I’m vegan or vegetarian? Of the eight essential amino acids two – lysine and methionine are given special attention in vegetarian diets. This is because compared with foods of animal origin such as eggs, milk and cheese, various food groups of vegetable origin have an imbalance of either lysine or methionine. But don’t worry as cereals and legumes are ‘complementary’ proteins. In practice this means that meals that combine for example, beans and rice or houmous and bread will provide a biologically ‘complete’ protein intake. Take a look here for more information – https://www.vegsoc.org/protein.
I feel bloated when I eat protein… What’s causing this? The answer depends on the individuals ability to digest well. Protein digestion happens in the stomach and takes up to 6 hours depending on the complexity of the meal. The food then moves down to the small intestine for further breakdown. Carbs such as sugars and starches (think bread, pasta, potatoes) are mainly broken down in the small intestine, therefore if protein is taking a long time to digest, the carbs have to hang around, probably fermenting, causing gas and indigestion. Therefore eating meat and pasta, or meat and potatoes may give rise to these conditions. Better to have protein and good selection of vegetables instead.