Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, growing teenagers, people with illnesses and injuries, athletes often have higher protein requirements.

Protein is classed as a macronutrient, along with fats and carbohydrates. The NZ Nutrition Foundation recommends a daily intake of 46-64 grams of protein per day for a normal adult. However there are varying ranges and guidelines for protein intake, some diets often set higher recommendations such as Atkins, Zone, Ketogenic and Paleo.

Dietary protein can be animal derived, with sources including meat, fish, chicken, eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt. Plant sources include soy (such as soy beans, tofu and soy milk), grains (quinoa, oats, and barley), nuts and pulses (dried beans, peas and lentils). People who follow vegetarian and vegan diets must obtain their protein from plant based sources.
Protein powder can be an easy way to increase your intake of protein. Both animal-derived and plant-derived protein supplements in powders and nutrition bars are available. These include:

  • Whey
  • Pea
  • Soy
  • Hemp
  • Rice
  • Chia
  • Sacha inchi

Amino acids are the building blocks of Protein. All 20 amino acids are needed for optimal health. Some are classed as ‘essential’ and can not be synthesised by the body. These include:

  • Lysine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Tryptophan
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Valine
  • Histidine
  • Methionine

Others which are classed as non-essential, can be made within the body. These include:

  • Arginine
  • Alanine
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamate
  • Aspartate
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine
  • Glutamine
  • Asparagine

Benefits & Uses

Protein is used by the body to:

  • Synthesise enzymes, for complex reactions within the body, like breaking down food in the digestive tract
  • Synthesise antibodies, which are essential for a strong immune system
  • Synthesise body tissues and organs, including haemoglobin, which is responsible for oxygen transport throughout the body
  • Synthesise hormones and neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers in our bodies and influence metabolic functions, including sexual function, mood, digestion and metabolic rate
  • Maintain normal sodium and potassium balance, supporting healthy function of the heart, lungs and nervous system

Protein is also used for growth, repair and maintenance in all these areas.