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Meat, Fish, Eggs and Other Alternatives
This food group includes poultry, pulses, beans, nuts, seeds, soya products and vegetable protein
foods, such as quorn and seitan. They're all grouped together, because they're rich in protein.
This is because protein consists of smaller units called amino acids, which chain together in many
different combinations to achieve different things. Some amino acid chains are created by your body,
but some - essential amino acids - must come from your diet. Though all animal and plant cells
contain some protein, the amount and the quality of the protein varies a lot.
High biological value foods contain enough indispensable amino acids for an adult diet and are
considered to be good quality protein. Meat, fish and eggs sit in this category.
Low biological value foods don't contain enough indispensable amino acids. Plant foods, such as
pulses, nuts and seeds, are in this group.
So, if you're vegetarian or vegan, you need to do some clever protein-combining at meal times to
ensure that the amino acid of one protein (e.g. soya milk) can compensate for the deficiencies of
another (e.g. muesli with nuts and seeds).
Protein Combining for Vegetarians and Vegans
Because plant foods only contain some but not all of the protein elements needed by your body, they
need to be mixed together to ensure your good health.
Foods such as eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, vegetable protein foods and soya products all
contain protein. Plus, there are small amounts in grains and dairy products. It's quite easy to combine
2 or 3 of these to make sure you're getting enough protein. Here are some ideas for tasty
Bran flakes with milk and sunflower seeds (grain + dairy product + seed)
Grated cheese and baked beans on toast (dairy product + bean + grain)
Egg-fried rice with chick peas (grain + egg + pulse)
Yogurt dip with aubergine curry and naan (dairy product + grain)
If you're vegan and don't eat dairy products or eggs, there's no reason to feel limited. Here are some
Muesli with nuts, seeds and soya milk (nut + grain + seed + soya)
Tomato and lentil soup with bread (pulse + grain)
Stir-fried tofu, vegetables and rice (tofu + grain)
How Much Is Enough?
Health professionals recommend that protein makes up 10-15% of your diet. They suggest that adult
males eat 55.5g of protein every day and adult females eat 45g every day. In real terms, eating a
moderate amount of protein - in one or two meals every day - should give you all the protein you
need. The need to eat it daily is worth emphasising because your body can't store protein - you can't
stock up on it by bingeing on protein once a week. Simply eating a variety of foods every day is all
you need to do.
Did you know...?
Did you know that eggs contains all eight essential amino acids, making them a perfect source of
protein? However, you'd have to eat at least eight eggs a day to get all the protein you need. Be
sensible, include them as part of a balanced and varied diet.