December 13/Glasgow, Scotland/Scotland on Sunday -- Research by Cambridge University has found that people whose meals comprised 15% protein consumed 260 fewer calories every day than those with only 10% protein -- a figure that equates to losing two stone in weight every year.

However, in a survey for Maxitone, the sports nutrition brand, while 70% of Scottish women said they thought they got enough protein in their diets, only 3% actually knew how much they need.

The current recommendation is 15%, but nutritionist Lynn Clay says that is an absolute minimum. “A lot of the new research has found that by taking it up to 20 or 25%, there is an increased ability for people to control their appetite. That's because protein is incredibly filling compared to carbohydrates. So if you replace a little bit of carbohydrate with a little bit of protein, we can satisfy our appetite much more effectively."

One of the other benefits of getting enough protein is its role in protecting against infection. “If people are picking up a lot of illnesses and infections they'll be thinking about vitamin C, or maybe they're iron-deficient. They don't stop for a second to think it's protein."

Clay continued, “Hormones that signal fullness are also released in greater quantities after a higher-protein meal – and we're not talking Atkins. We're just talking about making a small change."

To make those small changes, she suggests thinking about each meal in three chunks. “Carbohydrates -- ideally that would be wholegrains and low-GI carbs, fruit, vegetables, wholegrain rice or pasta. Then you think, ‘Where's my protein coming from?' It doesn't always have to be meat. Maybe look at beans or peas, nuts, low-fat dairy or protein powders. Then, in the third segment, it's vitamins, minerals and fiber."

From the December 13, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.