When asked to name a food or nutrient that they look to for health benefits, participants in a recent survey named protein most often. Are they right? And if so, are you getting enough protein?
What does protein do?
Protein provides us with the building blocks for every cell in our bodies from muscle to skin to the immune system. So clearly we need protein. Whether taking in more protein helps with things like weight loss or heart disease is still up for debate.
How much protein do we need?
For the average person, the recommended amount of protein per day is 0.8g per kg (or about 0.4g per pound) of body weight. Growing children and pregnant women will need slightly more. Endurance and strength athletes will also typically need more protein in the range of about 1.2 – 1.7g per kg (0.5 – 0.8 g per pound) to support their activities. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds you will need about 60g of protein per day or up to 120g if you are participating in heavy strength training activities. You can get too much of a good thing. Exceeding these recommended ranges will not likely provide any benefit and may contribute to health problems. The good news? According to a recent study, most Americans are getting enough protein, and very few are getting too little or too much.
Where do we get protein?
Protein is found in a variety of foods that we eat including both plant and animal sources. Meats, chicken, fish, milk and eggs are all sources of protein that most of us are familiar with. Beyond these traditional sources, plant foods such as beans, nuts and seeds and whole grains also contribute protein. So if you are getting on board with the plant forward trend, don’t worry. You still have a lot of options to keep up with your protein intake.
1. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2018 Food and Health Survey. Available at https://www.foodinsight.org/2018-food-and-health-survey.
2. Claire E Berryman, Harris R Lieberman, Victor L Fulgoni, Stefan M Pasiakos; Protein intake trends and conformity with the Dietary Reference Intakes in the United States: analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2001–2014, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 108, Issue 2, 1 August 2018, Pages 405–413, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy088