27 September 2018


What contains more protein - soy beans or beef? What about eggs compared to oats? And how much protein do we really need anyway? What happens if we do not get enough; and what about if we get too much?

The answers may surprise you, so this week, all you need to know about protein, plus 5 great tips for boosting your protein levels in a healthy manner if needed, but first

Thought for the day

Enlightenment is real; and each of us, whoever we are, 
Can in the right circumstances 
And with the right training 
Realize the nature of mind and so know in us 
What is deathless and eternally pure. 
This is the promise of all 
The great mystical traditions of the world, 
And it has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled 
In countless thousands of human lives.

The wonder of this promise 
Is that it is something not exotic, 
Not fantastic, not for an elite, but for all of humanity; 
And when we realize it, 
The masters tell us, it is unexpectedly ordinary.
Spiritual truth is not something elaborate and esoteric, 
It is in fact profound common sense. 

When you realize the nature of mind, 
Layers of confusion peel away. 
You do not actually “become” a buddha, 
You simply cease, slowly, to be deluded. 
And being a buddha 
Is not being some omnipotent spiritual superman, 
But becoming at last a true human being.

Sogyal Rinpoche 

Protein levels
So here it is.

Soy beans have about 50% more protein than beef; oats have around 30% more protein than eggs!

Not what you expected? Well, yes - surprising to most, but here are the facts...

Figures from the USDA database in grams of protein per 100 grams of uncooked product - with some processed foods as well

Banana 1.1
Brocolli 2.8
Brown rice 8.9
Wheat 10.7 …  Bread 9.0
Eggs 12.6
Oats 16.9  …  Porridge 2.4
Chickpeas 19.3
Almonds 21.2
Tuna 23.3
Peanuts 25.8
Lentils 26.0
Beef 27.0
Poultry 28.2
Lupins 36.2
Soy beans 39.6 …  Tofu 8.0, Tempeh 19.0

How much protein do we need?
This has been widely debated - and still is to a degree - but the common consensus is that we need less than most people imagine. Earlier recommendations - from the end of the last century - commonly recommended what are now regarded as dangerously high amounts, and for many, these high expectations have stuck.

So currently, the US & Canadian Dietary Reference Intake guidelines recommend women aged 19–70 need to consume 46 grams of protein per day while men aged 19–70 need to consume 56 grams of protein per day.

Official Australian Government recommendations are women aged 19–70 : 46 grams of protein per day;  men aged 19–70 : 64 grams of protein per day.

Special circumstances, higher requirements
As we age we do need more protein, so the Australian protein intake recommendation for people over 70 is - woman 57 grams per day; men 81 grams per day.

Physical activity and exertion as well as enhanced muscular mass increase the need for protein. Requirements are also greater during childhood - for growth and development, during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, or when the body needs to recover from malnutrition, from trauma or after an operation.

How much is eaten?
In the USA, a major study found average protein consumption was around 20% higher than that recommended - for women ages 20 and older consumption was 69.8 grams and for men 98.3 grams per day.

Protein excess has many problems
You may be confused by the high protein diets recommended for weight loss?

Well actually, high protein intake is linked to longer term weight gain, bad breath (which is linked to the metabolic state ketosis the body goes into with high protein intake and produces chemicals that give off an unpleasant fruity smell), constipation for some (due to low fibre), diarrhoea for others (particularly with high dairy or fried food intake), dehydration (the body flushes out excess nitrogen with fluids and water), kidney damage (due to damage from higher excretion levels of waste products and the excess nitrogen found in the amino acids that make up proteins), increased cancer risk (particularly related to hormones, carcinogenic compounds and fats found in meat), heart disease (red meat and full-fat dairy foods as part of a high-protein diet may lead to heart disease due to increases in saturated fat and cholesterol) and finally - and maybe - calcium loss.

What a list! Hence this article to recommend lowering the expectations of how much protein is enough, and encouragement to be content - and confident to eat less!

Protein deficiency
In Australia this is relatively uncommon; elsewhere it has devastating effects linked to malnutrition.

Clinical protein deficiency is usually linked with malnutrition and called Protein-Energy Malnutrition - PEM.

PEM is fairly common in disadvantaged countries in both children and adults and each year causes a staggering 6 million deaths.

In the industrialized world, PEM is far less common and is usually only seen in the ill or the elderly.

Symptoms of PEM are mental retardation and kwashiorkor - that manifests as apathy, diarrhoea, lethargy, failure to grow, flaky skin, fatty liver, and oedema of the belly and legs.

Symptoms of severe protein deficiency include oedema, fatty liver, hair thinning, faded hair color, hair loss (alopecia), brittle nails, redness and flaky skin and depigmentation.

Signs of moderate protein deficiency
Protein is essential for muscle growth and maintenance. Loss of muscle mass is one of the first signs of inadequate protein intake. Even moderate protein insufficiency may cause muscle wasting, especially in elderly people.
Not consuming enough protein may weaken your bones and increase the risk of fractures. 
There may also be a weakening and mild distortion of nails.
Protein not only helps maintain muscle and bone mass, but it’s also essential for body growth. 
Insufficient protein intake may delay or prevent growth in children.
Even marginally low protein intake may impair immune function,impairing your body’s ability to fight infections, such as the common cold.
Although poor appetite is one of the symptoms of severe protein deficiency, the opposite seems to be true for milder forms of deficiency. If you are feeling hungry all the time and have difficulties keeping your calorie intake in check, try adding some good quality protein to every meal.
Five tips for a healthy increase in protein levels - if needed
1. Use almonds - ground coarsely or as butter 
I have oats for breakfast most mornings. As well as containing soluble and insoluble fibre, raw oats are high in protein, but spread out in cooked oats the protein level is rather low — one serving of porridge has around 4 grams. A quarter of a cup of ground almonds contains around 8 grams of extra protein.

A tip - almond butter made by soaking almonds overnight makes almonds easier to digest (excellent for those unwell or anyone wanting the best from their food) and creamy! Two tablespoons of almond butter contains 7 grams of protein. You can use it instead of other spreads or mix it into just about anything.

Soaked and ground almonds go really well in soups; simply ground they can be added to many things.

2. Eat more high-protein green veggies.
A cup of green peas has about 9 grams of protein; a cup of cooked spinach 5 grams, a cup of Brussels sprouts 4 grams of protein.

3. Use more tempeh

Tempeh has over twice the protein content of tofu, is rich in B Vitamins including B12 and being fermented is possibly better all round than tofu.

In my view tempeh needs a little disguising - so be creative and add it to things with good flavours.

Nutritionally, it is a winner.

4. Eat more quinoa - a complete, high protein seed
Quinoa has 8 grams of protein per cup compared to 5gms per cup of brown rice.
Also, unlike many plant-derived foods, quinoa is a complete protein that provides all the essential amino acids.

5. Consider spirulina as a supplement
Spirulina is one of the wonderfoods. It contains a whopping 60% protein in dried form and many other nutrients. It is derived from healthy  blue-green algae and is often used as a survival food. Excellent for convalescing and when a protein boost is needed, but does not contain useable B12 as some think; does have good levels of iron and copper.

A tablespoon of spirulina powder contains 4 grams of protein.

Eat a lower quantity and a higher quality of protein and good health will abound!!!

You Can Conquer Cancer explains in more detail what to eat and why - for those wanting to be really well, prevent disease or recover from cancer.

How much carbohydrate is enough?


  1. Thank you Ian, this infirmatinf is most timely

  2. Great summary Ian. I would add that some proteins are easier to digest than others in the foods they are in and also depend on how long we chew our food for. Modern habits of eating quickly and spending minimal time cooking are also contributing to not getting the most out of the protein we ingest.

  3. Dear Ian and Ruth - I met you both almost ten years ago and every single day I bow to the wisdom and insights you have given me over the years and continue to give. Kind thoughts and best wishes to you both. Nicholle Harper

  4. Very , very helpful!!

    Thank you very much indeed!