By 'P word', we do of course mean protein. The definition from the Oxford Concise Dictionary is as follows:

‘any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds forming structural components of body tissues and constituting an important part of the diet.’

A brief history of protein

The word itself apparently originates from the Greek prōteios, meaning primary, or so says that same dictionary. And that gives us a clue as to just how important proteins actually are.

Proteins are vital, there's no way around it. They are often referred to as being the building blocks of life. Every cell in our body is made up of protein and they contribute to a whole host of functions in our bodies.

They are important for our muscles, skin, bones, and hair but also for blood, hormones, antibodies and enzymes. In short, they make sure that our outside looks just as good as our inside… and vice versa.

But how much of the stuff do we actually need from our diet and what is the best way of getting it? Actually, there is a general consensus as to how much protein a person should get from their diet on a daily basis, depending on how active and how old he or she is.

The British Nutrition Foundation, for example, sets the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for adults at 0.75g of protein per kilogram bodyweight per day. This would mean that a healthy female weighing 60kg should be getting at least 45g of protein from her food every day, provided she isn’t training for the next Olympics, pregnant or breastfeeding.

On average, dietary recommendations established in other parts of the world follow similar guidelines. A 2007 report of the World Health Organisation (WHO) concludes that ‘0.83 g/kg per day protein would be expected to meet the requirements of most (97.5%) of the healthy adult population.’

Good news

It appears that no matter what dietary program you follow, chances are you are getting above and beyond the daily minimum amount of required protein from your food!

That is, if you are eating a varied diet and are not following some extreme calorie-restricting regimen. In fact, many people think that we are actually over-eating in the protein department (this is one of the main arguments featured in the heated debate about meat and dairy).

Yes, whether you are flex non-vegetarian, vegan, semi vegetarian, pesco vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian or strict vegetarian, if your caloric intake is sufficient to meet energy needs, then there is absolutely no need to guzzle down icky protein shakes. Needless to say, the Overcoming MS (OMS) diet also passes the minimum required protein intake with flying colours.

Contrary to what many people still think (that meat, dairy and eggs are the most superior sources for protein) dietary protein is found in all sorts of foods. And, getting your proteins from plants has the added bonus of boosting your diet with much-needed fibre and other nutrients without the bad fats.

What are the best Overcoming MS-friendly protein sources?

Well, there’s fish of course. Among vegetables spinach is a real winner, but any cooked green vegetables are good sources of protein (think of broccoli, asparagus or any leafy greens).

And then there are your legumes (i.e. green peas, chick peas, beans and lentils especially).

Typical meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh and seitan are all excellent sources of protein as well as many a milk substitute (nut milks, soy, hemp).

Whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa have great protein content and make for a well-balanced and satisfying meal.

Sprinkle some nuts and seeds over any of your breakfasts, lunches and/or dinners and Bob’s your uncle. The key is to be as varied as possible with your food choices, eat a sensible amount of calories and you cannot go wrong!

Anneloes van Iwaarden