January 23, 2019
The current chatter around protein tends to focus on fitness (bulking up and post-exercise recovery) and sources (the vegan-vegetarian-meat debate). But what’s often missing from the conversation is the importance of protein when we’re unwell. We lose muscle mass when we run a fever, have treatment for cancer, or when our body is recovering from surgery or trying to heal a wound, such as a leg ulcer caused by poor circulation.
It’s an issue I find affects us particularly in the winter months, when it may be a struggle to get out to the shops to stock up on nourishing foods, or if we fill up on carbohydrates for warmth and comfort, neglecting our protein needs in the process. The cold often makes poor circulation worse, which can cause pain in our extremities and lead to slower skin healing.
Unlike animal protein, no single plant protein contains the eight amino acids that can’t be made by our body and must therefore come from our food. But by eating a wide range of non-meat protein, there’s no reason not to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Hummus, beans (even baked beans), lentils dishes such as dahl, miso, tofu and nut butters are all go-to sources.
If you’re simply seeking to cut back on the amount of meat you eat, don’t forget that fish and eggs each pack a great protein punch. A baked egg with spinach or a simple smoked mackerel paté can help nourish you through illness or recovery – and provide feelgood comfort on a plate.