This is a recipe I adapted from my cafe menu at the healthy chef and one that I designed for last weeks “Sun Herald” Food for thought column on Protein. It basically takes 5 minutes to put together and fantastic to throw into a lunch box before heading off to work. What I love about this recipe is that it’s dead easy to make and it makes you feel so energized after eating it. The smoked salmon can be swapped for a tinned wild salmon or even some poached chicken. You can also vary the pesto and swap with other dressings such as apple balsamic, or a zesty baba ghanoush made from roasted eggplant, tahini and a little lemon.
What is protein:
Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids and is an essential nutrient you can’t live without. Whenever the body is growing, repairing or replacing tissue, protein is involved. Proteins are found in your skin, bones, muscle and all your organ tissue, in addition, they are used to produce hormones, enzymes and hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the body. Think of your body as a high performance sports car, made from quality carbon fiber along with a fine tuned engine. Protein is the manufacturer responsible for building it, forming the structure and strength. It also moonlights as the mechanic, replacing parts and making sure everything runs smoothly. If we don’t get enough protein, the body takes it from your lean muscle and bone which will make you weak and frail and can result in symptoms such as growth failure, loss of muscle mass, a suppressed immune system, hormone depletion and weakness of the heart and respiratory systems.
Some are “complete;” others are “incomplete,” and you need them both.
Complete proteins are generally described as high quality proteins because they contain the 9 essential amino acids your body needs. Essential amino acids are ones the body can’t produce on its own and are generally found from animal food sources such as fish, lean grass fed or game meats, (skinless) poultry, eggs and low fat dairy including yoghurt, cottage cheese, milk and whey based sports supplements. Exceptions to the rule are vegetable based proteins such as soy and quinoa which are also classed as complete.
Complementary proteins are incomplete proteins as they may lack some of the essential amino acids. These include fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts and beans. This basically means if you follow a vegetarian based diet it’s important to eat a wide variety of plant based protein at every meal to make sure you get the full spectrum of essential amino acids.
How Much do we need?
The RDI (recommended daily intake) for protein basically covers the need for building, repairing and maintaining the body. It varies slightly depending on your age, weight and activity level. The average male would aim to eat around 0.84 pr kilo of body weight per day, whilst for women it’s 0.75 per kilo of body weight per day. For athletes, children, pregnant women or the elderly the RDI is higher. If you exercise a lot or if you are an athletes the RDI is higher as each athlete must be considered as an individual when determining the adequacy of dietary protein and energy intakes. For endurance athletes, footballers or power sports an intake from 1.2 – 1.7 kg of protein per kilo of bodyweight is an average calculation and requires the involvement of a sports nutritionalist and doctor to see if you are in a positive nitrogen state. Research suggests that current levels only meet the needs of a protein deficiency and that perhaps the goal of future dietary reference intakes should be to achieve a level of protein intake that promotes optimal health as well as help deal with issues such as obesity, suppressed immune system and diabetes.
Protein and Weight Loss
Eating a little protein with each meal can help keep you fuller for longer so you end up eating less between meals. It can also help restore levels of natural testosterone in both men and women which start to decline when we age and that can contribute to weight gain and loss of muscle mass.
1 hardboiled egg, peeled
50 g low fat ricotta or cottage cheese ( if dairy free use silken tofu)
50 g smoked salmon
5 spears asparagus
80 g cherry tomato
handful leafy greens
1 teaspoon pesto (optional)
Arrange all the ingredients onto a serving board or into a lunch box.
Protein: 28.3 g
Carbs: 5.5 g
Total fat: 9.7 g
Saturated: 3.1 g