Eat protein and feel good from the inside out

Eating well and exercising regularly is not all about weight loss. It’s about feeling good from the inside out. This week Nikki Edwards explains how her plan will give you an energy boost and improve your health while working on your waistline.

Any healthy eating plan includes all the major food groups but this one pays particular attention to protein.


Well some dieticians would say protein was a miracle food. This is because the moment it leaves your fork, you start burning the calories it contains.

High-protein foods take more work to digest you see, which means you burn more calories processing them. Both dietary carbohydrate and protein provide the same amount of available energy – 4 kilocalories per gram – but it takes about 25% more of that energy to process protein.

Protein also takes longer to leave your stomach, so you feel full quicker and for a longer amount of time.

The effect has obvious benefits for anyone who is watching their weight because eating more protein-rich foods curbs the appetite. An 80 calorie egg for example, is more filling than a 90 calorie glass of sugary, carbohydrate-rich orange juice.

Protein also increases lean body mass or muscle and muscle burns calories. When people shed weight, muscle mass is usually lost but studies show that overweight dieters are more likely to lose fat instead of muscle by following a higher protein plan.

Choosing the right proteins

Proteins are broken down in the stomach to provide amino acids, which in turn do everything from forming skin, organs, blood cells, and the immune system, to creating hormones and neurotransmitters.

There are 23 different types of amino acid. Eight of these, known as essential amino acids, must be obtained from food. The body then breaks these down to manufacture the remaining 15, which are called nonessential.

The protein containing foods that provide essential aminos are known as complete proteins, and the others as incomplete. All animal proteins are complete, but there are alternatives.

Vegetarians and vegans

A reader contacted me last week to ask how she could boost her protein intake when she was a vegetarian. It’s a good question and one I get asked a lot.

Now I do not eat a huge amount of meat myself, but I have found that many foods, including nuts and beans, can provide a good dose of protein. If you are not vegan dairy products and eggs are very good sources but it’s possible to build complete protein from plant-based foods by combining legumes, nuts, and grains at one meal or over the course of a day. The only catch is you will need to consume around 20% more plant-based protein to reap the benefits that animal-derived sources provide.

I find that introducing a vegan-friendly protein supplement really helps. Soya protein mixes are lactose free and suitable for all.

Everyone can benefit from the quick hit of amino acids provided by a protein supplement, bar, or shake. It is fast-absorbing and generally appears in your bloodstream 15 minutes after you consume it.

Here are some new foods to add to your list which are high in protein and suitable for vegetarians and vegans:

  • QUINOA - Now available from most supermarkets, quinoa is a wholegrain that is a good source of protein and is rich in fibre too. Unusually for a grain, quinoa offers an impressive 13% of complete protein.
  • CHICKPEAS - Low in fat and yet high in protein, chickpeas are a great addition to the diet. They are inexpensive, too, so make a nutritious low-cost alternative to meat. Chickpeas are 23% protein, but aren't complete, so mix with another bean, some rice or, as in houmous, some sesame seeds.
  • MISO SOUP - Made from fermented soya beans, miso soup is a traditional Japanese food. Soya beans contain isoflavones that can help reduce overall cholesterol and also combat hypertension, and offer more than 12% complete protein. Miso also contains probiotics similar to those that are found in live yogurt, so can help combat bloating and improve digestion.
  • BROWN RICE - This wasn’t on my original list because it does contain quite high carbohydrates but, consumed in moderation, it is actually a very good addition to the plan. It’s a wholegrain that is rich in minerals as well as a high-fibre food which gives it a low score on the glycaemic index. It contains around 2.5% protein.
  • OATS - These are just under 3% complete protein. Oats are also rich in betaglucans which have been shown to reduce overall cholesterol levels. Oats have a low score on the glycaemic index and can help keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Protein to Go

More and more people are trying protein shakes as a way to lose weight or enhance their sports performance. So what do protein shakes consist of, and what are their true benefits?

Up until quite recently protein shakes have been mainly used by bodybuilders or athletes who need nourishment straight after a workout. However, there has been such a surge in interest in high-protein foods, that many people – women in particular – are choosing to use them as part of a balanced, nutrient and protein-rich lifestyle plan.

It’s true that high-protein shakes can help develop lean muscle mass, which is a benefit for all women, but it’s also true that shakes can encourage fat loss, increase satiety, deliver essential nutrients and even improve metabolic activity.

Using a protein shake as an occasional meal replacement for example, may help you lose more weight and fat than you would by following a reduced-calorie programme. Having said that, I would not recommend you replacing a meal with a shake unless you have approval from your doctor.

Instead, I would incorporate protein shakes into your diet, to be used to sweeten and spice up certain recipes or as a way to replace fluids and nutrients after exercise.

Protein shakes come in a variety of flavours in powder form or in ready-to-drink packages, such as cans or foil packs.


Recipe of the week – for people with a sweet tooth

Banana Protein pancakes

Pancakes do not need to be unhealthy – and they are not just for Pancake Day either!


  • 30g scoop of Deluxe Nutrition 100% protein (Banana flavour)
  • 100ml Semi skimmed milk
  • 30g scoop of Deluxe Nutrition ultra fine Scottish Oats
  • 1 Egg
  • Oil


Whisk together or add all ingredients in a shaker bottle, (always add liquid first) and shake until completely blended together.

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat add a splash of oil, my favourite is Hillfarm rapeseed oil. Pour in small amount of pancake mixture. Don’t add too much or it becomes thick and tricky to flip. Cook in usual way for a pancake, flipping when set and when you feel confident.

Serve with a sliced banana and drizzle with sugar free maple syrup.

Exercise of the week – trampolining

Trampolining is the most effective aerobic and cardiovascular exercise for the whole body – an incredible 68% more efficient than jogging. According to Nasa, a 10-minute session provides benefits equivalent to a half-hour run.

The low-impact nature of trampolining also helps build strong bones and minimises the likelihood of stress injuries.

Bouncing is also good for developing motor skill and co-ordination and trampolining can greatly stimulate and cleanse the body’s lymphatic system.

It increases oxygen availability throughout the body and it is thought the bouncing motion helps to “push out” toxins. Also, by enhancing body fluid circulation to every cell of your body, fans insist it can delaying ageing.

It really is a great and fun way to get fit.

So you could either rush out into the garden to your children’s trampoline – or visit one of the many centres in Suffolk which offer adult trampolining sessions.

Where you can do it: Suffolk New College Sports Centre, Rope Walk, Ipswich. Call 01473 219439 for more information on times and prices.


One more thing!

Don’t forget to keep up the good work on the exercise-front. Aim to do half an hour each day of a cardiovascular activity such as walking, running or cycling. Next week we will be looking in more depth at how to build up an exercise programme to suit you.


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