How to get enough protein (with searchable foods list)

Small cute glowing protein strands

Protein is required for cell growth, repair and function, including for the immune system, muscles and energy. And, for your vagina and urinary tract health.

One study found that “Protein intake was significantly inversely associated with severe BV” – meaning, low protein intake was linked with more severe bacterial vaginosis (BV)​1,2​.

Why? Unclear, but may have something to do with the huge impact of protein on our immune system.

Studies​3,4​ show that low protein intake has an adverse impact on our immune systems, creating a block to the body being able to defend itself from pathogens.

What you eat matters for your vagina, especially if you’re treating bacterial vaginosis or other vaginal infections.

What is protein?

Protein is a strand made up of smaller pieces, known as amino acids. There are 20 amino acids that are joined together like a bead bracelet in different combinations – a protein strand.

Essential and nonessential amino acids

Amino acids are classified as essential (the body can’t make them and they must be consumed – 9 amino acids) or non-essential (the body can make them – 11 amino acids).

Complete and incomplete proteins

Proteins can therefore be categorised as complete or incomplete if they contain all essential amino acids or only some. If a protein is missing just one essential amino acid, it is classified as incomplete.

Sources of protein

Complete animal-based sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt, while complete plant proteins include soy, quinoa and amaranth.

Incomplete sources of protein are all plant-based, and include nuts, nut paste, legumes, garbanzo beans/chickpeas, beans, lentils, and wholegrains such as whole wheat, rice, oats and buckwheat.

Two compatible types of incomplete protein can make a complete protein. For example, peanut butter on a wholegrain cracker, baked beans on wholegrain toast, or rolled oats with nuts and seeds on top.

Eating milk, yoghurt and cheese can be improved upon even more with wholegrains and seeds, so enjoy cheese and crackers, or adding yoghurt and muesli together.

Searchable protein containing foods list

ItemProtein (g) per 3.5oz/100g
Baked beans4.6
Beef jerky35.7
Beef lasagne4.8
Beef mince15.9
Beef mince (extra lean )20.4
Beef mince (lean)18.5
Beef sausages14.7
Brown rice7.9
Canned black beans5.4
Canned chickpeas4.5
Canned red kidney beans7.8
Canned salmon20.7
Canned tomatoes0.8
Canned tuna25.1
Canola oil0.0
Chia seeds14.0
Chicken breast22.3
Chicken livers24.0
Chicken mince19.2
Chicken thigh fillets18.3
Chickpea flour21.9
Chuck steak19.0
Cocoa powder22.0
Corn Flakes (Kellogg’s)7.9
Cottage cheese (Bulla)12.4
Desiccated coconut1.2
Dried black beans21.3
Dried borlotti beans20.2
Dried chickpeas19.5
Dried pasta12.7
Dried red kidney beans22.5
Dried red lentils25.2
Dried yellow split peas23.3
Egg whites (Puregg)11.6
English muffins8.6
Firm tofu14.7
Fritz/Devon (Mayfair)11.4
Frozen basa fillets12.5
Frozen corn kernels2.5
Frozen edamame12.6
Frozen green beans2.0
Frozen mussels15.8
Frozen organic kale4.3
Frozen peas5.2
Frozen salmon fillets19.9
Frozen spinach2.0
Greek yoghurt6.0
High protein yoghurt10.3
High protein yoghurt (Chobani passionfruit)9.2
Instant dried yeast (Lowan)41.0
Instant noodles (Ayam)10.7
Kangaroo mince21.0
Linseed (flaxseed)15.5
Macadamias (raw)9.2
Milk powder24.6
Muesli bar7.4
Nut bar (Tasti)17.0
Nutri-Grain (Kellogg’s)21.8
Nutritional yeast flakes47.0
Peanut butter22.3
Pearl barley10.0
Pitted dates2.0
Plain flour10.9
Plant-based protein powder (Nature’s Way)75.3
Pork mince18.0
Pork mince (extra lean)19.0
Pork mince (lean)16.7
Protein bar (Sam’s Pantry)23.9
Protein pasta (Vetta Smart penne)24.9
Pumpkin seeds24.4
Red lentil pasta (San Remo)23.0
Rolled oats13.1
Sardines (in water)23.8
Seaweed (Obento yaki nori)44.4
Sesame seeds17.7
Shortcut bacon16.3
Shredded parmesan35.3
Skim milk powder35.2
Smooth ricotta cheese8.8
Soy milk3.2
SPAM Classic14.3
Sunflower kernels26.8
Surimi (imitation crab)7.4
Tasty cheese block24.7
Textured vegetable protein54.3
Turkey mince17.6
Weet-bix (Sanitarium)12.4
Wheat bran16.3
Whey protein powder (Possum)57.6
White quinoa14.2
White rice7.3
White sandwich bread7.7
White sugar (CSR)0.0

Getting enough protein – how can I tell?

Many people don’t get enough protein for their body to do all it needs to in a day. A quick way to tell is to check your nails, particularly your fingernails. If they are weak, flaky or break or peel easily, you need more protein.

The only exception to this rule is if you use nail art, so polish, gel, etc. will damage the nail and they are likely to be thin, weak and flaky no matter what.

The right amount of protein – for you

It’s a good idea to learn how much protein you need for your weight and physical movement each day. A good rule of thumb is to eat a palm-sized piece of protein with every meal, and make sure snacks contain protein (such as nuts, seeds, trail mix, an egg, peanut butter and apple).

Don’t skimp on protein, particularly if you’re trying to solve vagina and other health issues. It’s an easy place to start, if you’re not sure.

Certain groups of people need even more protein, for growing or due to recovery from surgery or illness. Kids, teenagers, the elderly and during pregnancy and breastfeeding all need more protein.

If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you need to put much more effort into getting sufficient protein each day, and protein combining to get the most out of food. You do NOT have to have all the amino acids in one meal; you can eat a variety of proteins across several days to get what you need.

Approximate protein requirements

  • A person who weighs 65kg should aim for 100-150 grams of protein per day
  • A person who weighs 140 pounds – 3.5-5.2 oz of protein per day
  • Pregnant, breastfeeding or over age 70: add 50 grams / 5.2 oz per day or follow the guidance of your doctor or dietician

Blood test to check for protein insufficiency

One of the indicators is in a regular blood test. If the protein marker urea or BUN (blood urea nitrogen) in your full blood count is below this functional medicine optimal range, 3.5 – 5.7 mmol/L, you are likely an under-consumer or under-absorber of protein.

What about protein shakes?

Yes! Use these! They’re fantastic as a snack, a filler between meals, a source of energy and a great top up after exercise to build muscle.

How to maximise protein absorption

  • Space out the protein evenly across the day in multiple meals, rather than one big meal (protein at every meal)​5​
  • Take 2-4 x 500mg betaine hydrochloride (HCl) capsules with meals – stomach acid is required to break the bonds between amino acids and many people are low in stomach acid (signs include burping, indigestion, bloating after eating)

How to maximise protein intake

  • Add eggs to lots more meals, either mix in a raw egg into soups and stews, add boiled eggs to salads and snacks, omelette, frittata
  • Eat more yoghurt
  • Eat more cheese
  • Add nuts and seeds to more meals, including sprinkling sunflower seeds or pepitas on eggs, salads and roast vegetables
  • Add beans or garbanzo beans/chickpeas to soups and casseroles
  • Add skim milk powder to meals
  • Grate cheese on more foods
  • Drink a protein shake
  • Remember that poor quality cuts of meat aren’t good at providing all the amino acids

Exercise and protein intake

After exercising, eat a meal with protein and carbohydrate to replenish energy stores and help repair muscle​6​.

This article is funny and good and explains what happens to protein after you exercise, and how much you need. Turns out, the upper limit has been debunked, and like snakes, we can digest and absorb protein for ages after we eat it, making the most of a bigger protein meal.

When you exercise, muscle is ‘broken’ and its this repair process that builds more muscle. That’s why muscles hurt during recovery, and why allowing your body to recover is important for building muscle effectively and safely.

High protein ‘keto’ diet

Please see a dietician or nutritionist to see what diet will suit your body the best. Not everyone thrives on limited diets, and the best advice is to eat good quality food and have a variety on your plate. We don’t store protein, so eating more doesn’t mean we store more – we just urinate it out, which uses up kidney resources.


  1. 1.
    Neggers YH, Nansel TR, Andrews WW, et al. Dietary Intake of Selected Nutrients Affects Bacterial Vaginosis in Women , ,3. The Journal of Nutrition. Published online September 2007:2128-2133. doi:10.1093/jn/137.9.2128
  2. 2.
    Noormohammadi M, Eslamian G, Kazemi SN, Rashidkhani B. Dietary acid load, alternative healthy eating index score, and bacterial vaginosis: is there any association? A case-control study. BMC Infect Dis. Published online October 27, 2022. doi:10.1186/s12879-022-07788-3
  3. 3.
    Bhaskaram P. Immunobiology of mild micronutrient deficiencies. Br J Nutr. Published online May 2001:S75-S80. doi:10.1079/bjn2000297
  4. 4.
    Bendich A. Micronutrients in women’s health and immune function. Nutrition. Published online October 2001:858-867. doi:10.1016/s0899-9007(01)00649-9
  5. 5.
    Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Published online January 5, 2018. doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1
  6. 6.
    Trommelen J, van Lieshout GAA, Nyakayiru J, et al. The anabolic response to protein ingestion during recovery from exercise has no upper limit in magnitude and duration in vivo in humans. Cell Reports Medicine. Published online December 2023:101324. doi:10.1016/j.xcrm.2023.101324

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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)