Cookies on the Bupa website

We use cookies to help us understand ease of use and relevance of content. This ensures that we can give you the best experience on our website. If you continue, we'll assume that you are happy to receive cookies for this purpose. Find out more about cookies




Protein is an important part of a healthy diet. It's essential for growth and repair in your body, as well as having a number of other important functions. Along with carbohydrate and fat, protein provides us with energy and essential nutrients.

Most of us already get enough protein in our diet, but it's important to make sure you're getting healthy proteins from a range of sources.

A carton of eggs, whisk and recipe books


  • What is protein? What is protein?

    Proteins are complex molecules, made up of long chains of smaller molecules called amino acids. Your body can make some amino acids, but there are others it can't make. You can only get these from your diet – they are called essential amino acids.

    Proteins are found in foods that come from animals, including meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. You can also get them from non-animal sources such as cereal products, soya products, beans and pulses. Proteins that come from animal sources usually include all the essential amino acids, while those that come from plant sources may not. If you don't eat food from animals, you should still be able to get all the amino acids you need by eating a good range of plant-based proteins. 

  • Why do we need protein? Why do we need protein?

    Protein is essential for the ongoing growth and repair of all tissues in your body. It's also a source of energy, along with carbohydrate and fat. Proteins have a number of other important functions around the body – here are some of the main ones.

    • Structure – protein makes up most of the structural tissues in your body, such as skin and muscle.
    • Transport – proteins act as carriers for various molecules and nutrients in your blood.
    • Hormones – many hormones are made of protein (for example, insulin which helps to control your blood sugar levels). 
    • Enzymes – these proteins have various functions in your body, such as helping with digestion.
    • Immune system – antibodies are proteins that are produced when your body needs to fight off an infection. 
  • How much protein do we need? How much protein do we need?

    It's recommended that adults should have 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For an adult weighing 70kg (11 stone), this works out as 52.5g of protein per day. Children and teens need less, and women need more during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

    What does this amount of protein look like in terms of the food you eat? Having a couple of portions of protein-rich foods a day, along with some dairy foods, should give you the amount you need. Examples include the following.

    • One medium (90g) chicken breast.
    • A 140g portion of fish.
    • Two medium-sized eggs.
    • A 200g serving of baked beans.

    Most people in the UK get more than enough protein in their diet. But taking in too much of any food that gives you energy – carbohydrates, proteins and fats – can cause you to put on weight. So while you need to include protein in your diet, it's important to eat these foods in moderation.

    See our information on portion sizes for more information.

  • Worried about your BMI?

    Get a picture of your current health and potential future health risks with one of our health assessments. Find out more today.

  • Healthy sources of protein Healthy sources of protein

    In the UK, the largest proportion of our protein comes from meat (especially red meat), followed by cereals and cereal products, and then milk and milk products. The trouble with this is that while meat is an excellent source of protein, it can also be high in fat, especially saturated fat. Dairy products can also be high in fat. Too much fat in your diet can lead to health problems such as obesity and heart disease.

    It's best to enjoy a range of healthy sources of protein while trying to avoid having too much saturated fat. Here are some tips on where to start.

    • Choose lean cuts of meat, including lean mince. Cut any visible fat off your meat, and take the skin off chicken.
    • Grill meat and fish rather than frying.  
    • Don't have more than 70g of red meat a day (or limit how many days of the week you have it).
    • Don't eat too much processed meat like sausages, bacon and burgers – these are high in fat and salt.
    • Lentils and beans are a great alternative to meat, as they're high in fibre, protein and vitamins and minerals, as well as being low-fat. Try substituting meat with lentils or beans in curries, stews and soups.
    • Try to include two portions of fish a week (including one oily fish like salmon, mackerel or trout).  
    • Go for lower-fat dairy products like milk or cheese. Or if you prefer the full-fat versions, have smaller amounts or have them less often. 
  • Other helpful websites Other helpful websites


    • Macronutrients and energy balance. Oxford handbook of nutrition and dietetics (online). Oxford Medicine Online., updated December 2015
    • National Diet and Nutrition Survey Results from Years 1, 2, 3 and 4 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2008/2009 – 2011/2012). Public Health England and the Food Standards Agency, published May 2014.
    • Exploring nutrients. British Nutrition Foundation.
    • The Eatwell Guide. Public Health England, July 2016.
    • Nutrition requirements, British Nutrition Foundation, revised October 2017.
    • McCance and Widdowson's composition of foods integrated dataset. Public Health England., published 25 March 2015
    • What is energy? British Nutrition Foundation., last reviewed 1 November 2016
  • Has our information helped you? Tell us what you think about this page

    We’d love to know what you think about what you’ve just been reading and looking at – we’ll use it to improve our information. If you’d like to give us some feedback, our short form below will take just a few minutes to complete. And if there's a question you want to ask that hasn't been answered here, please submit it to us. Although we can't respond to specific questions directly, we’ll aim to include the answer to it when we next review this topic.

    Let us know what you think using our short feedback form
  • Related information Related information

  • Tools and calculators Tools and calculators

  • Author information Author information

    Reviewed by Pippa Coulter, Freelance Health Editor, January 2018
    Expert reviewer Mr Paul McArdle, Registered Dietitian
    Next review due January 2021

About our health information

At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. We believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and care. Here are just a few of the ways in which our core editorial principles have been recognised.

  • Information Standard

    We are certified by the Information Standard. This quality mark identifies reliable, trustworthy producers and sources of health information.

    Information standard logo
  • HONcode

    This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
    verify here.

    This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.

What our readers say about us

But don't just take our word for it; here's some feedback from our readers.

Simple and easy to use website - not alarming, just helpful.

It’s informative but not too detailed. I like that it’s factual and realistic about the conditions and the procedures involved. It’s also easy to navigate to areas that you specifically want without having to read all the information.

Good information, easy to find, trustworthy.

Meet the team

Nick Ridgman

Nick Ridgman
Head of Health Content

  • Dylan Merkett – Lead Editor
  • Graham Pembrey - Lead Editor
  • Laura Blanks – Specialist Editor, Quality
  • Michelle Harrison – Specialist Editor, Insights
  • Natalie Heaton – Specialist Editor, User Experience
  • Fay Jeffery – Web Editor
  • Marcella McEvoy – Specialist Editor, Content Portfolio
  • Alice Rossiter – Specialist Editor (on Maternity Leave)

Our core principles

All our health content is produced in line with our core editorial principles – readable, reliable, relevant – which are represented by our diagram.

An image showing or editorial principals

                  Click to open full-size image

The ‘3Rs’ encompass everything we believe good health information should be. From tweets to in-depth reports, videos to quizzes, every piece of content we produce has these as its foundation.


In a nutshell, our information is jargon-free, concise and accessible. We know our audience and we meet their health information needs, helping them to take the next step in their health and wellbeing journey.


We use the best quality and most up-to-date evidence to produce our information. Our process is transparent and validated by experts – both our users and medical specialists.


We know that our users want the right information at the right time, in the way that suits them. So we review our content at least every three years to keep it fresh. And we’re embracing new technology and social media so they can get it whenever and wherever they choose.

Our accreditation

Here are just a few of the ways in which the quality of our information has been recognised.

  • The Information Standard certification scheme

    You will see the Information Standard quality mark on our content. This is a certification programme, supported by NHS England, that was developed to ensure that public-facing health and care information is created to a set of best practice principles.

    It uses only recognised evidence sources and presents the information in a clear and balanced way. The Information Standard quality mark is a quick and easy way for you to identify reliable and trustworthy producers and sources of information.

    Certified by the Information Standard as a quality provider of health and social care information. Bupa shall hold responsibility for the accuracy of the information they publish and neither the Scheme Operator nor the Scheme Owner shall have any responsibility whatsoever for costs, losses or direct or indirect damages or costs arising from inaccuracy of information or omissions in information published on the website on behalf of Bupa.

  • British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards

    We have received a number of BMA awards for different assets over the years. Most recently, in 2013, we received a 'commended' award for our online shared decision making hub.

Contact us

If you have any feedback on our health information, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us via email: Or you can write to us:

Health Content Team
Battle Bridge House
300 Grays Inn Road

Find out more Close

Legal disclaimer

This information was published by Bupa's Health Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition.

The information contained on this page and in any third party websites referred to on this page is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment. Third party websites are not owned or controlled by Bupa and any individual may be able to access and post messages on them. Bupa is not responsible for the content or availability of these third party websites. We do not accept advertising on this page.

For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the 'About our health information' section.

ˆ We may record or monitor our calls.