Bacon
/bey-kuhn/

Proteins

Bacon is cured and smoked pork meat. The curing process involves soaking the meat in brine (salty water), injecting it with brine or dry curing in plain salt. This is why the end product has a high salt content with around 1000mg of sodium per 100g of bacon.

On average a 50g serve of bacon contains almost 500kJ, 10g of protein, 8g of fat, no carbohydrate and 500mg of sodium.

Bacon would have originally been produced as a means of preserving the meat and indeed the high salt content prevents the growth of many pathogenic bacteria. However today chemical preservatives, usually sodium nitrite (E250), are almost always added as an extra precaution. Although this is usually thought of in a negative light, it's worth remembering that the pathogens you could pick up from cured meat would do you far more harm and potentially make you very sick. They do therefore play a safety role. 

However a high consumption of processed meats including bacon has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, especially colon cancer. The nitrite preservatives, the high salt content or other unknown factors may be to blame. If you enjoy your bacon you can certainly continue to do so, but I do suggest that you don't eat it every day. I suggest limiting bacon to no more than once or twice a week for this reason. You can also help to protect yourself by ensuring the rest of your diet is rich in plant foods with their beneficial compounds.
’s ‘Did You Know?’
Nutritionally bacon varies enormously depending on the cut. Streaky bacon comes from the pork belly and has visible streaks of fat throughout the rasher. Back bacon is leaner as it is mostly the loin from the middle of the back of the pig. In Australia bacon sold as middle bacon, has both the eye of the loin at one end with a long streaky bacon 'tail'. Short-cut bacon has this tail removed so is far leaner. Depending on the cut bacon can range from 5-16% fat, with about 40% of the fat present being saturated fat.

Nutritional Information

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Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Barramundi
/bar-uh-muhn-dee/

Proteins

Barramundi are an excellent source of protein with 19g per 100g, they have no carbohydrate and are low in fat.

The fats present do contain a significant amount of the long chain omega-3 fats: 100g of freshwater barramundi provides 11mg EPA and 50mg DHA; Saltwater barramundi has slightly more DHA with 76mg. This is 15-20% of your target for the day, as recommended by the NHMRC to reduce your risk of chronic disease. 

Barramundi is also rich in several micronutrients. 100g provides 78% of your niacin, 40% of your phosphorus, 28% of your iodine (often low in our diets), 14% of your potassium, 12% of your magnesium and is one of the few food sources of vitamin D, providing around 15% of your daily requirement. Barramundi is less good for iron and zinc with only low levels present. 

Wild and farmed barramundi are listed as amber in the Australian Sustainable Seafood Guide. This means think twice before buying. There are concerns over stock in some areas. They advise avoiding barramundi farmed in sea cages as this has a detrimental effect on the local environment, and avoid imported farmed barramundi.
’s ‘Did You Know?’
Barramundi are almost always born male, and only become female when they are 3 or 4 years old. Finding a younger man is the only way to go for Barramundi! 

Nutritional Information

Dairy free Gluten Free Nut free

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Beef
/beef/

Proteins

Beef is rich in protein with 100g providing about 22g. As with other red meats, beef is an excellent source of haem iron, which is better absorbed than the non-haem iron we get from plant foods. 100g of beef provides 2.2mg of iron - that's 12% of the daily need for pre-menopausal women and 28% that for men and post-menopausal women. A regular sized steak is larger than this, so you can see that beef can substantially boost your iron intake.

Beef is also a rich source of zinc with 3.7mg/100g. Men have a higher requirement than women for zinc and it's necessary for healthy sperm. A 200g steak can provide 53% of a man's daily requirement. For women a 100g steak provides 46% of their daily requirement. 

The fat content of beef will vary from about 6 to 15% depending on the cut, and whether trimmed of selvage fat. Beef fillet is the leanest cut with per 100g, 6.3g fat of which 2.4g saturated fat, 0.6g polyunsaturated fat and 2.7g monounsaturated fat. So although you usually hear that red meat is high in saturated fats, beef in fact has a similar amount of monounsaturated fats. 
’s ‘Did You Know?’
Marbled beef such as wagyu may be favoured by chefs - the fat melts through the meat while cooking helping to keep it moist - but nutritionally this is not the best choice.

An Australian study compared the levels of inflammatory markers in the blood after eating wagyu and kangaroo - a lean game meat. While there was no rise after the kangaroo, there was a marked rise in several of these markers after eating the much fattier wagyu.

The red meat our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate was from wild animals that had lower fat and saturated fat, and higher omega-3 fats compared to domesticated animals we eat today. I recommend choosing grass-fed beef (sometimes labelled pasture-fed) to get a meat closer to the meats we ate in the past.

Nutritional Information

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Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Black Beans
/blak beenz/

Proteins

Black beans, sometimes called turtle beans due to their glossy black coat, belong to the legume family. They are one of my favourite beans as they are winners nutritionally while also delivering on taste and meaty texture, keeping their shape during cooking. It used to be hard to find them ready cooked and canned, but recently they have become much more available and you should now spot them in your local supermarket. You can of course cook them from dried, but do be sure to soak overnight before cooking to reduce the anti-nutrients and reduce the levels of compounds such as raffinose that can cause flatulence.
 
A cup of black beans (which counts as a protein block or as a carbohydrate block on Get Lean) delivers 31g of available carbohydrate, 16g of plant protein, very little fat and an impressive 16g of fibre. Importantly the fibre includes insoluble fibre found in the skin, and both soluble fibre and resistant starch in the bean itself. This makes it a fabulous food for fuelling good gut bacteria, keeping you regular and promoting general gut health.
 
Black beans are one of the best plant sources of iron, delivering over 4mg. You’ll also get a good dose of folate – important for protecting DNA from damage as we age – magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and the B group vitamins thiamine and riboflavin.
 
We usually think of fruits and vegetables being our primary sources of phytochemicals such as antioxidants, but black beans score impressively well here too. The gorgeous dark purplish black colour comes from a group of anthocyanins – a sub-group of flavonoids being studied for their ability to protect cells throughout the body from free radical damage.

’s ‘Did You Know?’
Black beans are traditionally used in Latin American dishes such as burritos and in Spanish, Portuguese and Punjabi cuisine. They are very versatile in cooking from soups to salads to casseroles.

Nutritional Information

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Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Borlotti Beans
/bor-lotti beenz/

Proteins

Borlotti beans are a type of kidney bean that is widely used in Italian cuisine. They have a lovely creamy texture and slightly sweet flavour. They are wonderful added to pasta dishes such as ragu or to any casseroles.

Like other beans borlotti provide a good balance of plant protein (100g provides about 6g of protein) and carbohydrates that are slowly absorbed (low GI). They are fablulously fibre rich with 5g per 100g of cooked beans, and the fibre includes soluble fibre and resistant starch, both excellent fuel for the good bacteria in your gut.

Borlotti beans will also deliver you a good dose of B group vitamins, including folate, magnesium, iron and zinc.  
’s ‘Did You Know?’
You can often find borlotti beans fresh, still in their brightly coloured pods, in good grocers. Fresh borlotti beans should be used within a week. You do not need to soak fresh beans - simply remove from teh pod and simmer in stock or water for about 40 minutes or until tender. Delicious served with extra virgin olive oil, seasoning and freshly chopped herbs.

Nutritional Information

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Dr Joanna Plate Category: Smart Carbs

 
 
Buffalo
/buhf-uh-loh/

Proteins

Buffalo meat is gaining a health following in many countries, along with other game meats, and for good reason. The animals are generally free range, and in many cases wild, and are therefore exercising more and eating a pasture-based diet as they would in the wild. This results in many differences compared to the shed-bound or feedlot cattle that supply our beef. The main difference is that buffalo meat is incredibly lean with only 1-2% fat, and the meat looks a deeper darker red - mostly because there is no marbling. In less mobile animals (ie domesticated animals) intramuscular fat forms due to the lack of exercise and over feeding with grain. 

Compared to the leanest cuts of beef, buffalo has 30% fewer kilojoules, 75% less fat and the same amount of protein and iron. Pretty impressive! 

Of the fats present, compared to beef it also has double the amount of long chain omega-3 fats we know to be essential to good health - 100g of buffalo provides 40mg. This is nothing like the amounts you will find in oily fish, but it is significant.

In beef's favour it does have more zinc, but all other nutrients are relatively similar. Both meats are excellent sources of niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. 

For readers in Australia, just google 'buffalo meat' to find several suppliers.
’s ‘Did You Know?’
If you've been following the recent interest in Paleo diets, and I am certainly fascinated by an evolutionary approach to understanding how diet affects us, the modern interpretation has been to eat more meat and saturated fat. But this comparison of a wild animal to modern domesticated illustrates the problem with that approach. Paleo humans did not eat a high saturated fat diet. They ate lean, fit wild animals like the buffalo, not fatty marbled steaks like wagyu or processed meats such as commercial sausages and salami.

Nutritional Information

Dairy free

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Cannellini beans
/kah-nel-lee-nee beenz/

Proteins

There are thousands of species of beans and peas and botanically they are known as Leguminosae - or as we simply call them, legumes. Cannellini beans are kind of like a white kidney bean and indeed are often referred to as such. They are popular in Italian cooking where they are called fasolia beans.

You can buy them dry or ready cooked in canned form. I have to admit I usually do the latter for convenience. If you have them ready to use in your pantry you are much more likely to use them! Nutriitonally nothing is wrong with using canned - just be sure to rinse them well in a sieve under the tap to wash away much of the salt that is in the storing liquid. To me this is a good example of modern food preservation that makes healthy eating easier and hurray for that! 

Nutritionally cannellini beans are pretty fabulous. They are high in protein and fibre, they have a very low GI of 31, and are low in fat. A half cup of cooked beans provides 6g of protein, 11g of carbohydrate, 6g of fibre and 0.5g of fat, all for only 325kJ (78 calories). They are an excellent source of folate with that same half cup providing 74μg (19% of an adult's RDI) and a good source of niacin (11% RDI for women, 10% for men) and iron (8% RDI for women, 19% for men). You'll also get a significant dose of magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.

In the Australian Dietary Guidelines legumes are included as a vegetable, but also as a protein food - for vegetarians and vegans legumes are invaluable in this regard. Using the Dr Joanna Plate you can count legumes as either your protein choice when consuming a vegetarian meal, or as your smart carb.
’s ‘Did You Know?’
To cook from dry place the beans in a bowl, cover with water and leave to soak overnight. The next morning discard the soaking water, rinse well and transfer to a large pot. Cover with fresh water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and then cook for a couple of hours until soft. Adding a splash of oil to the pot helps to improve the texture. Be sure not to add any salt at this stage as it tends to split the skins and toughen the insides. Only add salt at the end of cooking or once using them in a dish.

Nutritional Information

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Dr Joanna Plate Category: Smart Carbs

 
 
Chicken
/chik-uh n/

Proteins

Chicken is now one of the most popular and commonly consumed meats in the Western World. It wasn't always that way, and a Sunday roast chicken was once a rare treat. Unfortunately with the rise in popularity, the quality of chicken meat has declined as a result of the intensive methods used in how they are farmed. A chicken that is intensely reared to grow fast in a barn, and slaughtered young has not nearly the same flavour as a bird allowed to forage on pasture and grow to maturity. However rest assured that, despite the number of times I see "hormone-free" chickens being sold, hormones have not been used in poultry production in the US, the UK or Australia for some 50 years. Chickens grow fast because they have been selectively bred to be that way, and the exact nutritional requirements for optimum growth are known. 

There is no doubt that intensive farming of chickens has brought the cost down and that makes it easier for us all to be able to afford that Sunday Roast. Nevertheless if you can, I do recommend you buy free range chicken, for both taste and animal welfare considerations. I also urge you to buy and use the whole bird as much as possible. In the era of low fat eating we were all urged to eat only the breast. It is indeed the leanest part of the bird, but the brown meat from the leg and thigh is much higher in nutrients such as iron and zinc. It's also more flavourful, not to mention what waste there is if you only ever buy the breast! You'll also find you'll save significantly if you buy the whole bird and learn how to dissect it yourself (buy poultry shears to make the job easy), or simply cook it whole. 

From a nutritional perspective there are no real differences between intensively reared chicken and the very best organic - it is in the flavour that you will notice the difference, and of course that decision is also an ethical one and a cost one. All chickens are an excellent protein choice for your Dr Joanna Plate. They are also especially rich in niacin. In addition you'll get a good dose of riboflavin, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and a little iron.

’s ‘Did You Know?’
A good reason to choose chicken over other meats is that it has a relatively small environmental footprint. As our populations grow, how we feed us all without destroying our planet becomes top of the priority list. There is much credence in choosing to eat more smaller birds and animals, and fewer big methane-producing animals that contribute to global warming. 

Nutritional Information

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Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Chickpeas
/chik-pee/

Proteins

Chickpeas are legumes - the dried seeds of podded plants. They are known to have been cultivated for many thousands of years in the Middle East and are eaten in many cuisines. In Italy they are known as 'ceci' and are eaten in salads and in soup. In France they are called 'pois chiches' and they stew them in stock with herbs and also add them to soup. You may also have heard of them as 'garbanzos', their Spanish name, where they are also added to meat stews - a great idea as it makes expensive meat go much farther. The largest producers of chickpeas worldwide is India, where they are known as 'Bengal gram'.

You probably know them best in the Middle Eastern dish hummus, where the chickpeas are blended with tahini, garlic and lemon. Hummus is so much better homemade and if you have a food processor or blender it takes only a couple of minutes. You can of course buy it ready-made, and then I always read the ingredients list to look for the one with only the ingredients I use at home with no undesirable additives. Use hummus in sandwiches and wraps as your Dr Joanna Plate Good Fat (the fat comes mostly from the tahini), as a dip with carrot and celery sticks, and in many Middle Eastern style dishes. It's really good with chicken.

Nutritionally chickpeas are pretty fantastic. They are a good source of plant protein with every half cup providing 6g, and all of the essential amino acids are present in good quantities. This makes chickpeas a smart addition to vegetarian and vegan diets, but I encourage meat-eaters to reduce their reliance on animal foods and include more plant sources of protein in their diets too.

Chickpeas are full of fibre with a half cup providing 4g, and they'll also give you 13g of slow-release carbs - chickpeas have a very low GI. This mix of protein, fibre and low GI carbs makes them a smart choice to help control your appetite and blood glucose levels.

Although I've classified them in the Dr Joanna Plate as a protein choice, they can also count as your smart carb. Count them as your protein in vegetarian meals, and for meat and fish-eaters they're a terrific choice as your low GI carb. 

Chickpeas are also rich in many micronutrients. A half cup provides 14% of your recommended intake for folate - essential across your lifetime in protecting against DNA damage that ultimately causes aging. You'll also get 8% of your magnesium, 11% of your zinc and 9% of your iron for pre-menopausal women, 20% for men and post-menopausal women. If you don't eat meat, add a good source of vitamin C to the meal to help you absorb more of this plant iron.  
’s ‘Did You Know?’
You can buy your chickpeas dried or ready-to-eat in a can. Nothing is wrong with using the latter for convenience, and it probably means you will eat more chickpeas. I do look for brands that do not have plastic linings on their cans - but I have only seen one brand with this labelled externally. Trial and error is the only way to find out. If you do fancy cooking them yourself, soak the chickpeas in water overnight. Discard the soaking water and then put them in a large pan with fresh water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat so they are only gently simmering and cook for a couple of hours until tender.  

Nutritional Information

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Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Crab
/krab/

Proteins

We don’t often think of crab as a particularly healthy food but in fact it has so much to offer us. We probably don’t have it as often as we might due to the expense when buying fresh crab, the fact that fish markets usually sell them live might also put you off, or you may never have cooked crab and so are unsure as to what to do with it.
 
However, I hope I can convince you that crab is worthy of a place on your Get Lean menu. You can buy canned crab, ready to use in jars in the fridge section of the supermarket, or cooked and frozen in the freezer section. If you’re game to go for the live fresh crabs then go for it!
 
The nutrition of crab meat does vary depending on the variety, but in general crab meat is an excellent source of protein, is very low in fat and has no carbohydrate. It contains more water than chicken or meat, so compared weight for weight it has only about half of the kilojoules. It’s a rich source of vitamin B12 and several minerals including zinc, phosphorus, copper, magnesium and selenium.
 
It is also an excellent source of iodine with 100g of canned crab meat providing half of an adult’s recommended daily intake. That’s important as iodine is low in many countries including Australia and affects thyroid health (and therefore metabolism), as well as IQ in infants and young children. For that reason it’s especially important that women planning a pregnancy and those already pregnant ensure they consume sufficient iodine.
 
While salmon gets all the accolades for long chain omega-3s, other seafood including crab make a significant contribution. On average crab meat provides about 100mg of long chain omega-3s per 100g. The Australian recommendations are for adult men to consume 160mg a day, and adult women 90mg a day. So eating a serve of crab gets you there for the day.
’s ‘Did You Know?’
The Australian Sustainable Seafood Guide lists Mud Crabs and Spanner Crabs as the most sustainable since stocks remain healthy. Howvever there are concerns over Blue Swimmer Crabs, particularly in Western Australia. Be sure to make a responsible choice when choosing crab.

Nutritional Information

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Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Duck
/duhk/

Proteins

Duck is in my opinion an under-used meat in Australia and we should be eating more of it! From an environmental perspective we need to be reducing our consumption of big, methane producing animals such as cattle, and eating more smaller animals and birds such as duck and other poultry. So if you've only ever had duck with pancakes at the local Chinese restaurant, it might be time to be more adventurous and give cooking it yourself a shot!

Duck was once thought of as a fatty meat, but this is not true. Like pork, the fat on duck sits under the skin and does not marble through the meat as it does with beef. This means that you can choose to separate the fat if you wish and the meat underneath is actually very lean. 100g of duck meat has only 5.5g of fat and more than half of it is healthy mono-unsaturated fat. That in fact makes duck fat not a bad cooking fat and it does make awesome roast potatoes and homemade wedges!

Compared to chicken breast, duck meat has almost 80% more iron and 65% more zinc. A 100g serve (raw weight - about half a duck breast) will give you 1.8mg of iron. That's 10% of the daily requirement for women up to age 50, and 23% that for men and women over age 50. It's also rich in the B group vitamins thiamin, niacin and riboflavin.

Do take care not to overcook duck or the meat will become tough. It is best to cook it with the skin on to help retain moisture and flavour, then allow to rest before serving. 
’s ‘Did You Know?’
Farming of ducks for food can be traced back to at least four thousand years ago and was popular with the ancient civilisations of China, where it continues to be a popular meat today. 

Nutritional Information

Dairy free Gluten Free Nut free

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Egg
/eg/

Proteins

If you’re confused over eggs you’re not alone. Once upon a time, before we really understood how diet affects blood cholesterol levels, it made sense to limit foods high in cholesterol. Since egg yolks come under that category, the advice was to limit the number of eggs you ate. Today we know that the types of fat in your diet plays a more important role in determining your blood cholesterol profile and dietary cholesterol is far less of a factor. Even if you have high blood cholesterol, the current advice is that you can happily enjoy up to 6 eggs a week - and I can't see what more would be a problem. That’s great news as eggs are a nutritional smorgasbord!

Eggs provide very high quality protein, with a near perfect balance of the amino acids the human body needs. There’s a reason why eggs have been a body-builders’ staple for many years! 

The yolk is especially rich in the B group vitamins folate, vitamin B5, vitamin B12, thiamin (B1) and riboflavin (B2). The fat is important as it also contains excellent levels of the fat-soluble vitamins A and E, and one of the few foods to provide vitamin D.

Eggs are a terrific breakfast choice. Studies have shown that people who eat eggs for breakfast are less hungry later and correspondingly eat less at lunch. 

There is no truth to the rumour that cooking eggs damages nutrients; in fact the reverse is true. Egg white contains a protein called avidin and this binds to the vitamin biotin tightly making it unavailable for uptake and use by the body. When you cook the egg white this denatures avidin and the problem does not occur. Actually it would only be a problem if you were eating raw egg whites every day and didn't have significant other sources of biotin in other meals - extremely rare. It has been documented in body builders following very strict diets and eating drinks with raw eggs in them repeatedly over months. Generally though it's not something we need to worry about.

Raw eggs can of course carry E Coli or other pathogenic bacteria. Pregnant women, young children and those with compromised immune systems should play safe and avoid raw eggs.
’s ‘Did You Know?’
Don't throw the yolks away! Not only do they contain most of the nutrients, they are rich in two carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin. These are found in high concentrations in the eye and seem to play a crucial role in eye development and ongoing eye health throughout life. Eating foods such as egg yolks that are rich in these two carotenoids reduces your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. 

Nutritional Information

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Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Goat
/goht/

Proteins

Goat is most commonly eaten in Africa, Asia and South and Central America. With the rise of interest in the nutritional and environmental aspects of game meats, goat is becoming increasingly available in Australia. Young goat is often sold as 'kid'.

Nutritionally goat is a fantastic choice. Like other game meats it is very lean and therefore provides fewer kilojoules than fattier meats. Comparing goat to lamb leg, the goat has 25% fewer kilojoules, over 70% less fat, but has the same amount of protein and zinc, and 40% more iron.  

Goat is an excellent source of riboflavin, phosphorus, iron and zinc, and is a good source of thiamin, potassium and magnesium.

Because it is lean you need to be careful not to overcook the meat or will dry out and become tough. Goat is excellent slow cooked in a curry or casserole, or roasted in the oven. 
’s ‘Did You Know?’
In the United States it is often sold as 'chevon', coming from the French name chèvre, because this seems to be more appealing to consumers than goat.

Nutritional Information

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Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Halloumi
/huh-loo-mee/

Proteins

Eggs on toast with a side of halloumi please!  Who doesn’t enjoy that grilled cheesy side with their weekend breakfast order?  Halloumi has a high melting point, which enables it to maintain its shape during cooking, and gives it that unique crispy texture on the outside but spongy smoothness in the inside. 
 
Halloumi originated in Cyprus and remains popular throughout the region. It is now exported all over the world and is made locally. Traditionally the cheese is made from goat's and sheep milk, then set with rennet (therefore not usually suitable for strict vegetarians) and preserved in brine. Today cow's milk is often used in commercial varieties since it is produced in greater quantities and is therefore cheaper. This does affect the flavour however so read the ingredients list to seek a more traditional product. 

As with all cheese, halloumi is an excellent source of protein and calcium, essential for optimal bone health. A 30g slice provide 186mg of calcium - that's 19% of the amount an adult needs every day. Reports that calcium is not well absorbed from cheese are simply not true. For more information on the bioavailability of calcium from foods read my colleague Glenn Cardwell's excellent article here.

Storing the cheese in brine is an effective means of preservation, but it does mean that the cheese is especially high in salt. It has more than four times the salt content of a cheddar style cheese! Too much salt over time increases the load on your kidneys and raises your risk of high blood pressure. Those on low salt diets should avoid halloumi, but the rest of us can happily indulge provided we don't have it everyday and we don't include other high salt foods that day. 

Halloumi is energy dense so you can't eat too much of it. Thankfully the strong taste does tend to make that difficult. This is largely due to the high fat content, which provides over 60% of the kilojoules. About two-thirds of the fat is saturated fat and there are currently heated debates in the nutrition world about how relevant this is to our health. It's clear that the whole food must be taken into account and not judged just on one nutrient. A traditional cheese is very different to a modern highly processed fast food meal. You can read more on saturated fat on my blog, or from Dr David Katz, Director of Yale Prevention Research Centre here

Halloumi does have additional nutritional benefits. It's a good source of riboflavin, vitamin A, phosphorus and zinc. Plus it's completely delicious and that in my view earns it a valued place in any diet!
’s ‘Did You Know?’
Halloumi was traditionally wrapped in mint leaves as a means of preservation since mint has anti-bacterial properties. The halloumi and mint duo remains a popular combo today. 

Nutritional Information

Gluten Free Nut free Vegetarian

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Kangaroo
/kang-guh-roo/

Proteins

Kangaroo, as with other game meats, is about as close to the type of meat our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate as we can get. The animal is active and eats its' native diet, and as a result the meat is exceptionally lean, low in saturated fat but does provide significant levels of essential omega-3 fats, and is exceptional for protein, iron and zinc. What's more if you live in Australia, it's extremely cost effective. For meat-eaters it's a fantastic choice.

If you're trying to get, or just stay lean, kangaroo can help. 100g of lean kangaroo provides 21g of protein, helping you to manage your appetite and build or maintain your muscle levels. It is also lower in kilojoules compared to more common lean cuts of red meat: 100g of kangaroo fillet provides 412kJ, compared to 644kJ in lean beef and 582kJ in lean lamb. That same serve provides about 30% of your daily zinc, 19% the iron for a pre-menopausal woman and over 40% that for men and post-menopausal women, more than half your niacin, well over a third of your riboflavin, and about a fifth of your thiamin and phosphorus. 
’s ‘Did You Know?’
Because kangaroo is so lean, it's really important that you don't overcook it. If you think the meat is tough, overcooking is almost certainly your mistake. Be sure to cook gently and the meat should still be moist and pink in the middle. I cook fillets for only 2-3 minutes each side and then rest under foil in a warm oven for 10 minutes, before slicing and serving. I also use kangaroo mince to make burgers, or dice and use the meat in casseroles and stirfries. Check out the Recipe Bank for more ideas.

Nutritional Information

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Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Kefir
/kuh-feer/

Proteins

Kefir is a fermented milk drink that tastes a little like yoghurt. It's popular in Eastern and Northern Europe, but is gaining popularity in Australia as the benefits of consuming 'good' bacteria - or probiotics - is recognised. The levels of probiotic bacteria in kefir are much higher than most commercial yoghurts. 

Probiotics help to boost the levels of good bacteria in the gut. This pushes out the bad guys, promotes good gut health and powers our immune systems.

Traditionally foods were fermented as a means of preservation before we had refrigeration. Particular bacteria convert the sugars in the food to lactic acid, and this acts as a preservative, preventing more harmful and food spoiling bacteria and other micro-organisms from growing.
’s ‘Did You Know?’
For those with lactose-intolerance, kefir is a great dairy option as the bacteria break down the lactose leaving only a trace in the end product.

Nutritional Information

Gluten Free Nut free Vegetarian

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Lamb
/lam/

Proteins

Lamb, along with beef, provide the most readily absorbable iron of common foods. The 'absorbable' part is important to note. Although on paper it may looks as if foods such as fortified breakfast cereals, spinach and tofu have similar iron levels, these all contain non-haem iron. This is very poorly absorbed by the body, although eating a vitamin C-rich food at the same time helps.

If you are a meat eater, consuming a red meat such as lamb will go a long way towards you meeting your iron requirements. Menstruating women, infants and children are most at risk of iron deficiency. Depending on the cut 100g of lean lamb provides around 2.6-2.8mg of iron - that's around 15% of the RDI for pre-menopausal women, and 35% that for men and post-menopausal women. 

Lamb is one of the richest sources of zinc, a mineral essential to proper immune function, wound healing, carbohydrate and protein metabolism, the buliding of protein (indluing muscle) and in men, sperm production. 

You'll also get serious boosts of the B group vitamins necessary for energy production including niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, along with phosphorus. 

The fat will vary depending on the cut, with leaner cuts containing only around 6g fat/100g. Interestingly although we say meats are high in saturated fats, in lean lamb only about 2g is saturated, 0.6g are polyunsaturated, and the majority at 2.5g are monounsaturated fats. 
’s ‘Did You Know?’
Your best guide to finding the meat with the most iron is the colour - the redder the meat, the more iron it contains. So lamb and beef contain more iron than pork or chicken, but also the brown meat from chicken thighs and legs has more iron than the breast.

Do bear in mind that meat need not be bright red. It is normal for meat to trun a brown-red and this does not mean that it is old.

Nutritional Information

Dairy free Gluten Free Nut free

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Lobster
/lob-ster/

Proteins

Lobster might seem like a decadent food and for most of us it is. That's a shame as it's a fantastic source of lean protein, and provides a whole bunch of nutrients - especially minerals with good levels of iron, zinc, calcium and selenium, along with vitamin B12 and niacin. 

The Australian Marine Conservation Society Sustainable Seafood Guide lists wild lobster as an amber choice - meaning think before buying. There are concerns with overfishing, leading to an upset in the ecosystem and an overgrowth of urchins. They list the healthiest option as being Southern Rock Lobsters from south WA. For readers in other countries be sure to look for your local guide recommendations to ensure you are making appropriate sustainable seafood choices. 
’s ‘Did You Know?’
A classic lobster dish is thermidore, but that seems such a waste of lobster. The taste of fresh lobster is quite delicate and, at least to me, the rich white sauce in this dish completely overwhelms it - not to mention the added kilojoules and wrong kinds of fat. I much prefer to have lobster freshly grilled or served cold with a salad. Most of us don't get to enjoy lobster often, but if you get the chance it's one of those foods that really are a nutritional treat.

Nutritional Information

Dairy free Gluten Free Nut free

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Lupin
/loo-pin/

Proteins

Lupin belongs to the legume family and similar to other legumes it is a terrific source of protein. What makes it different is that it has a very low amount of available carbohydrate and an extremely high level of fibre. 100g of lupin provides about 40g of protein, only 4g of carbohydrate, 6g of fat and a whopping 37g of fibre. 

This makes it a pretty amazing food to add to a recipe to reduce the glycaemic load, while boosting the fibre and protein. It can therefore be of benefit in controlling blood glucose levels, reducing blood cholesterol levels and boosting gut health.

You can buy it as lupin flakes from the newly formed company The Lupin Co. or as lupin flour from Irwin Valley. The flakes make an excellent crumb for schnitzel or baked fish or chicken, or to make into falafel. The flour works really well when used to substitute some of the regular flour in a recipe. 
’s ‘Did You Know?’
Lupin is gluten free so suitable for coeliacs. Just be sure when using the flour to mix with other gluten free flours when baking.

Nutritional Information

Dairy free Gluten Free Nut free Vegan Vegetarian

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Mackerel
/Mackerel/

Proteins

Mackerel is one of my favourite fish. It's an oily fish and so, like salmon, it is a rich source of anti-inflammatory long chain omega-3 fats. 100g raw weight of Spanish mackerel has only 6g of fat, but that fat supplies 1476mg of omega-3s and of that 1012mg is DHA. This is the omega-3 fat found in highest quantities in the brain and thought to be essential for normal brain function. It's particuarly important for infants and a deficiency of DHA causes all sorts of brain problems, including ADHD. But even as an adult we still need to obtain these fats in our diet for optimal amounts. We can make them in our bodies from shorter chain fats, but there is a limit to how much we can produce. Eating more oily fish is a fabulous way to boost your brain and heart health.

The two major concerns with fish are mercury contamination and overfishing. Mackerel scores well on both fronts. These are relatively small fish, well down on the food chain. They do not therefore accumulate significant levels of mercury. It is the large predatory fish such as shark and swordfish at the top of the sea food chain that are a greater risk. In terms of stock levels, the Australia's Sustainble Seafood Guide lists Spanish mackerel as a green choice (and therefore the best choice from a sustainability persective) and mackerel icefish as amber. However wild caught grey mackerel is listed as red. Talk to your fishmonger if fish is not clearly labeled so that you know what species you are buying.

Don't forget that mackerel, like other fish, is a primary source of protein. A 100g fillet will provide you with 19g of protein - that's on par with meat. So although it's a major contributor to your good fats, I classify it as a protein for the purposes of balancing your Dr Joanna Plate. It's also a good source of several B group vitamins including niacin, B6, thiamin and riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and is a fabulous source of selenium - often low in Western diets.
’s ‘Did You Know?’
While canned tuna is the most popular canned fish, I'm a recent convert to canned mackerel. Find a good brand and it's such an easy way to get more oily fish into your diet. I simply flake a can of mackerel over a big bowl of mixed salad veg, dress with extra virgin olive oil and lemon, and lunch is served. A delicious lunch that feeds your brain!

Nutritional Information

Dairy free Gluten Free Nut free

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Marinara Mix
/mahr-uh-nahr-uh miks/

Proteins

Marinara Mix is a great buy for making a seafood bouillebaisse (you'll find a great super quick and easy recipe in our Recipe Bank), a pasta marinara, seafood stirfry or a seafood pie. It usually contains a mix of different types of fish, shellfish, squid and prawns. If you're only cooking for one or two, this is a good cost effective option. If cooking for larger numbers I would usually buy my seafood separately.

The benefits of mixing up an array of seafood in one dish is that you broaden the mix of nutrients present. The shellfish for example have higher levels of iron and zinc than the fish, while the inclusion of salmon or trout will boost omega-3 fat levels.

Seafood is also a valuable source of iodine - often lacking in modern diets. Iodine is necessary for the functioning of your thyroid and the production of thyroid hormones. A lack of iodine can lead to an enlarged thyroid gland called a goiter.
’s ‘Did You Know?’
Do ensure the freshness of any seafood mix you buy. As soon as fresh produce is cut up and mixed, it increases the chance of bacterial contamination being spread. Marinara mix should be prepared, bought and used on the same day. Ensure you cook it that night. 

Nutritional Information

Dairy free Gluten Free Nut free

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Milk
/milk/

Proteins

Although people are often divided on whether milk is healthy, really it comes down to your own body. We can certainly live without milk, but for most of us milk offers a good package of quality protein, calcium, and several other nutrients. It’s a great choice after your gym session as it can help your muscles recover.
 
In choosing whether you buy low or full fat milk, here are the facts. Full fat milk is more energy dense - it has about double the kilojoules of skim milk with a cup providing 730kJ compared to 370kJ in skim. In the low fat era of the last few decades, skim milk was always recommended for this reason, and the fact that full fat milk has a high level of saturated fats. However more recently the association between saturated fats and heart disease have been questionned. When we look just at the dairy research, it seems that when dairy is consumed as milk, cheese or yoghurt, where lots of protein and calcium is also present, the saturated fats do not have a detrimental effect on blood cholestero levels. Neither is full fat dairy consumption associated with being overweight - in fact the contrary, research shows that all dairy can actually help you to lose weight as part of kilojoule conttrolled diet. There may be components of the fatty part of milk that has benefit (e.g. CLA) or it may be that when you eat the full fat version it's more filling and so you eat less of other things. 

Personally I don't like full cream milk - although strawberries and cream is pretty fabulous - and I much prefer skim milk. I'd rather get my kilojoules and my fat elsewhere. To me skim milk is literally just the creamy layer skimmed from the top of the milk. It's not a food that has been manipulated and processed to be low fat, usually with undeisrable additives to make the product palatable. Those I don't recommend. Ultimately it's up to you to choose which you prefer. My advice is simply that in the absence of an allergy or intolerance, there is much nutrition to be gained from milk and why would we not consume it.

Milk is rich in quality protein, one of the best sources of calcium, and is a good source of phosphorus, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and vitamin B12. Full fat milk is one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D and provides a small amount of preformed vitamin A. 
’s ‘Did You Know?’
If you get a tummy ache and find yourself running to the loo after too much milk, you may be lactose intolerant. This is a genetic trait. If your family comes from an area in the world where milk has been consumed for thousands of years, you will more than likely continue to produce the enzyme that breaks down milk lactose and you won’t have this problem. If you are lactose intolerant, you can buy lactose-free milk that has the lactose already broken down for you.
 
You could also have an allergy or intolerance to the proteins in milk. In this case my suggestion is to try A2 milk. The A2 refers to one of the proteins found in milk and this is the original type that was present in milk when we first started consuming it thousands of years ago. Somewhere along the line a natural mutation in the cows caused a change and this protein changed to A1, such that regular milks these days all contain a mixture of A1 and A2. Why does this matter? Well evidence is emerging to suggest that A1 may be a problem to some people. We still need much more research to fully understand what is going on, but meantime if you’re avoiding milk because it doesn’t agree with you, it might be worth giving A2 a go.

Nutritional Information

Gluten Free Nut free Vegetarian

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Mussels
/muhs-uhl/

Proteins

Mussels are not too far behind oysters for zinc and are also a fantastic source of iron. For those who choose not to eat red meat, tuck into mussels on a regular basis to ensure you meet your body’s requirement for both of these minerals.

A dozen mussels provide all the iron and vitamin B12 you need for the day, a third of your zinc, more than a third of your magnesium and a tenth of your vitamin A. And all for only 540 kilojoules and pretty much no saturated fat. Most of those kilojoules come from protein, so opting for mussels on the menu can help with curbing your appetite and controlling your weight.
 
Mussels are a good source of selenium – a mineral we need only tiny amounts of, but is often lacking in our diets due to low selenium levels in the soil. Selenium is necessary for thyroid hormone metabolism, to make DNA and to protect cells around the body from oxidative damage and infection. 
’s ‘Did You Know?’
From a seafood sustainability point of view, mussels (along with oysters and other shellfish) are considered some of the best choices. They have a green rating in the Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide.

Nutritional Information

Dairy free Gluten Free Nut free

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins

 
 
Octopus
/ok-tuh-puhs/

Proteins

Try throwing some octopus on your barbie for a change. 100g of cooked octopus has more than double the iron content of a similar amount of steak, but has 30% fewer kilojoules, hardly any fat and delivers a similar amount of protein. Octopus is also fabulously rich in vitamin B6, vitamin B12, phosphorus, copper and selenium.
 
Octopus also provides good levels of the long chain omega-3 fats. These fats are crucially important in the brain and seem to play a role in cognitive function and brain health as we age. In children these fats are essential for optimal brain development. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory and therefore can be helpful in relieving all sorts of inflammatory conditions, including arthritis but may also help to reduce the low-grade inflammation that occurs alongside many chronic diseases and obesity.
’s ‘Did You Know?’
Octopus has a green rating in Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide making them an excellent choice from a health and ethical perspective. 

Nutritional Information

Dairy free Gluten Free Nut free

Dr Joanna Plate Category: Proteins