*Originally published 2/15/20
Protein. It’s everywhere you look these days, but does it live up to the hype? How much do we really need, and is there a benefit to going over the minimum? Should grams of protein per calorie be what sells you on a product? Today I’m going to answer some of these questions for you and help you figure out ways to get protein naturally without having to resort to protein bars and other gimmicks that food corporations make you think that you need.
First of all, protein is very important. Proteins are the building blocks of our bodies. They are used to build muscles, organs, enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and more. It’s necessary for us to consume protein in order to keep our bodies functioning properly.
With that said, one walk through the grocery store or a quick viewing of your Facebook ads would lead you to believe that you need A LOT of protein, and that more is definitely better. That really isn’t the case!
The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for protein is .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To determine your needs, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2, and then multiply by 0.8. For a 150 lb person, that’s about 55 grams of protein. Most people need protein to be 10-35% of their daily calorie intake. There are times when we need a bit more (when we’re sick or growing, as we age, and if we engage in intense physical activity), but generally, not more than 1 gram per kilogram of body weight.
High protein diets have become very popular – and some people can tolerate them – but there is some concern that these diets may stress the kidneys.
It’s okay to get more than the minimum intake, but there’s really no benefit to getting excessive amounts. On average, a person who eats 90 grams of protein at a meal gets the same benefits as a person who eats 30 grams. Excess protein is stored as fat or excreted in your urine, rather than being stored as muscle. Some protein powders contain up to 80 grams of protein per serving- that’s 50 wasted grams of protein that you’re paying for!
In my personal opinion, protein consumption is best spread out over the course of the day, and best when sourced from real food.
For reference, here are some of the protein levels in some common foods:
1 cup broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, or brussels sprouts- 4-5 grams
1 cup cooked quinoa- 8 grams
1 cup whole wheat pasta- 7 grams
3 oz chicken- 30 grams
¼ lb lean beef- 30 grams
½ cup of oats- 5 grams
2 tbsp peanut butter- 7 grams
1 oz nuts- 4-7 grams (depends on the nut)
3 oz tofu- 8 grams
1 whole egg- 7 grams
1 oz salmon- 6 grams
1 cup cooked lentils- 18 grams
1 cup most types of beans- 15 grams
1 cup peas- 9 grams
1 cup plain greek yogurt- 18 grams
Let’s say you ate oatmeal with peanut butter for breakfast, a salad with quinoa, chickpeas and a variety of veggies for lunch, a snack of fruit with plain Greek yogurt, and a dinner of whole wheat pasta with peas and a variety of other veggies, you’re looking at over 70 grams of protein (and that’s assuming you’re not having a full cup of quinoa, chickpeas, yogurt, etc.). This just goes to show that it’s not necessary to seek out protein powders, bars, or special versions of foods you normally buy that boast “extra protein.” You’ll also notice that there wasn’t any meat in that meal plan! Although there’s nothing wrong with eating meat, it’s important to note that meat isn’t a necessity in order to meet your protein needs.
What are your thoughts about protein? What role does it play in your diet? Share in the comments!
If you’re interested in this topic and would like to learn more about nutrition, sign-up for a free consultation today!