Food and Drinks

Protein: What’s a serve and how much do you need?

Protein plays an important role throughout the human body. It’s essential for growth and repair, acting as enzymes and hormones, helping muscles contract, and providing structure to bones, skin, and hair.

Protein plays an important role throughout the human body. It’s essential for growth and repair, acting as enzymes and hormones, helping muscles contract, and providing structure to bones, skin, and hair.

Proteins are made up of many building blocks called amino acids, which can then be classified as essential (must be provided through diet) or non-essential (made by the human body). Proteins are found in a variety of foods, including both animal and plant-based.

Generally, animal-based proteins (meat, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt & milk) provide higher quality protein, containing all essential amino acids (called a complete protein).

Plant-based proteins (vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes) tend to lack one or more of the essential amino acids and contain less protein per weight.

The good news is that when you combine two different plant proteins (say rice and beans), they become a complete protein.

By eating a varied diet of whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, and vegetables over a day, both vegetarians and vegans can receive all the amino acids they require for good health.

Whether an omnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian, or vegan, variety is the key, and we should all be including plant-based proteins.

How much protein do you need?

Our protein requirements, like most things, vary depending on age, sex, and activity level. Our RDI for protein is calculated on men needing 0.84g and women 0.75g per kilo of body weight, which equates to

Women: 45-60g per day

Men: 65-80g per day

To meet this RDI, it is recommended that adults eat 1-3 servings of protein per day. Most Australians have no issues in meeting this requirement, with many, in fact, consuming far more than their actual RDI.

These are the foods highest in protein:

Animal proteins: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, kangaroo, poultry (chicken & turkey), lean sausages, lean mince, fish fillet, tinned fish seafood (mussels, oysters, crab, lobster, prawns) and eggs.

Plant-based proteins: Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas), tempeh,

nuts (such as almonds, pistachios, cashews, brazil, pecans, walnuts), and seeds.

Click here to calculate one serve of protein.

Other good sources of protein

Dairy foods:

Dairy products (such as cheese, milk, and yogurt) are all excellent sources of protein, with the two main types of protein found in cow’s milk, casein and whey, both being complete proteins. Just one cup of milk contains an impressive 8.8g protein. Soy milk (unlike many other alternative milks) is also a great source of protein. Including three servings of dairy per day is also recommended to meet calcium requirements (essential for bone health), with one cup of milk, 200g yogurt, 40g (2 slices) cheese, or 120g (1/2 cup) ricotta being one serving.


Although not as high in protein as animal products, grains and grain-based products are still a significant source of protein in our diet, accounting for around one-quarter of the total protein intake in Australia. Wholegrains such as oats, quinoa, bulgur, buckwheat, and amaranth are all excellent choices, containing up to 9g of protein per cup cooked.


We don’t immediately think of protein when it comes to veggies. Still, these nutrition superstars also contain mentionable quantities of protein, with one medium potato having up to 4g and 100g broccoli almost 5g! This is even more reason why we should be eating a minimum of 5 servings per day, with more being optimal.

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