Updated: Nov 28, 2022
Protein is essential to our body for a number of reasons. Protein is the building blocks for life. The body needs protein to maintain and repair itself. Next to water, protein is the most abundant substance in the human body.
Protein has several additional functions in the body. Proteins act as enzymes to facilitate chemical reactions. They help regulate body processes, or hormones in the body. Proteins help maintain fluid balance, including maintaining acid-base balance of body fluids. Proteins are responsible for transporting substances like lipids, vitamins, and minerals around the body. They help the body fight against diseases, serving as antibodies to inactivate foreign invaders. Proteins also provide some fuel to meet the body's energy needs.
Now, the question is how much protein should you have?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein roughly averages the following:
Men: 56 grams a day
Women: 46 grams a day
There are a number of factors that determine exactly how much protein you should consume daily. Age, activity level, health status, and health goals are just a few considerations made when determining appropriate protein intake.
Roughly 10%-35% of your total calories should come from quality protein sources. For example, if you need 1800 calories, your protein intake will range from 180-630 calories, or 45g-158g daily. Individuals who exercise regularly, as well as adults over the age of 40, have a slightly higher daily protein requirement to meet their specific health and physical needs.
Two to three servings of protein-rich food will meet the daily needs of most adults. Because the body can't store protein, any excessive intake will be used for energy or stored as fat. Excessive protein intake or poor quality protein intake can lead to elevated blood lipids or heart disease. Excessive intake can also increase the risk for kidney disease.
Here are 6 simple ways you can add protein to your diet:
Replace the meat in your current diet with lean meats. Examples of lean meats that are high in protein are chicken, turkey, fish, or tenderloin cuts of meat.
Add cottage cheese to your diet. Every 1 cup of cottage cheese contains approximately 28g of protein.
Add eggs to your diet. You can either eat egg whites, or egg with the yolk, as the yolk contains approximately 6.5 g of protein.
Snack on nuts, beans, and seeds throughout the day. Sunflower seeds, chickpeas, edamame beans, unsalted peanuts, and peanut butter are all examples of foods in these food groups that are high in protein.
Add yogurt to your diet. Yogurt is generally high in protein, especially Greek-style yogurt, which is often denser and richer in protein than regular yogurt.
Eat vegetables that are high in protein. Examples of vegetables that are especially high in protein are broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes. Eat the vegetables raw (such as in a salad), or prepare the vegetables using a stir-fry or steaming method. These preparation styles will allow the vegetables to retain their nutrients and protein; whereas boiling the vegetables can reduce their amount of nutrients.
Quick Tip: Eat seafood in place of red meat or poultry twice a week. Select a variety of seafood—include some that are higher in oils and low in mercury, such as salmon, trout, and herring.