Health Latest

The powerful health benefits of a protein-fuelled diet

We all know we need protein, but what is it really?

Protein is good for your bones, reduces hunger pangs, boosts metabolism, helps your body repair from injury and is an important source of essential amino acids.

“Protein is a key part of any diet,” says Nicole Dynan, Director of The Good Nutrition Company and spokesperson for Dietician’s Australia. 

“It is needed for healthy muscle, skin, bone, and hair, and is used to make hormones and enzymes that assist with many functions in our body.”

Dig a little deeper though and it starts to feel more complicated. Should we choose animal or plant proteins? Are we getting enough? How much is too much? 

“Overwhelmingly, the evidence suggests that the source of protein, whether animal or plant, rather than the amount of it we eat, is the likely factor that makes a difference to our health,” says Nicole, who says plant proteins support a healthy gut microbiome. 

“Swapping red and processed meats for healthier protein sources like fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and seeds can reduce the risk of disease and premature death.”

Sydney-based gastroenterologist Dr Pran Yoganathan says he teaches his patients to prioritise protein with every meal in order to correct nutritional deficiencies.

“Animal-based protein foods are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Meat, eggs, fish and dairy help us to meet our fundamental nutrient requirements for essential micronutrients such as iron, vitamin B12, zinc, omega-3 fats, calcium and so much more.”

Animal proteins are a complete source of essential amino acids so, if you’re eating a predominantly plant-based diet, you’ll need to be clever about combining proteins. 

“The nutritional quality of protein is determined by the number of essential amino acids it contains,” says Nicole. “Combining incomplete but complementary sources of plant protein, such as lentils and brown rice, creates a complete source of protein.” 

So how much it is healthy? According to Nicole, the average Australian requires 2.5-3 servings of protein a day (or roughly 0.75g per kilogram of body weight for women, and 0.84g for men). 

“It is a good idea to eat it across 2-3 meals a day,” says Nicole. “This improves muscle protein synthesis which is essential to the body’s ongoing growth and repair.”

While a high protein diet is often the gold standard for weight loss programs, Dr Yoganathan says it’s also important to incorporate some healthy fats and carbohydrates so that your energy needs are met. 

“Humans have relatively high energy requirements due to our large brains and busy lives and, although proteins are an essential component of our diets, they are not a good source of energy.”

Whatever source you prefer, experts agree that choosing whole foods and avoiding processed foods is a key part of any healthy diet. “The fundamental reason that we eat food is to get energy, proteins, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals,” says Dr Yoganathan. “Eat more of the foods that contain the energy and nutrients you need and less of the foods that don’t.”

High protein dinner ideas


Cauliflower cheese with leek and fennel

Cauliflower is surprisingly high in protein and low in calories. This is a delicious cauliflower and cheese bake, perfect in time for Winter.


Jerk salmon with yoghurt potatoes

Along with being protein-rich, fresh salmon is also bursting with nutrients like potassium, iron and vitamin D.


Mexican chicken tortillas

Lean chicken is an excellent and easy way to get your protein fix. Add some natural yoghurt to your tortillas to ramp up your daily intake.

Related stories