When choosing foods that are good sources of protein it is important to consider not only the amount of protein the food provides but also the quality of the protein present.
There are two types of proteins – incomplete and complete. ‘Complete’ proteins contain all the amino acids required to build new protein. Animal foods are considered to be complete proteins and some examples of good protein sources are meat, seafood, chicken, eggs, milk and milk products. However, plant foods such as legumes, cereals and nuts are considered to contain ‘incomplete’ protein. This means that a wide variety of plant foods required to ensure that vegetarians receive all the amino acids required in the body for building protein.
When choosing foods as a protein source, we need to be aware of the other components present in the food. Often high-protein foods are also high-fat foods, especially meat sources of protein. Choosing foods from both plant and animal sources should give a high protein intake without dramatically increasing fat intake.
Bread is an important source of protein in the New Zealand diet, providing 11% of the total protein in our diet. On average, protein present in bread ranges from about 8-15 g protein per 100 g bread dependent on the type of bread. Because bread is a cereal source of protein, it is important to combine bread with animal proteins, for example cheese or milk, to ensure that you are consuming a good source of complete protein and thus you are receiving all the amino acids required to build protein in the body.