Proteins are small molecules that are made up of amino acids. These are important building blocks that are necessary for healthy cells, strong connective tissue and muscles, making antibodies and enzymes, and more. Protein is a necessary source of energy for the body.
The human body cannot sustain itself without some dietary protein. The quality of the protein matters as much as the quantity. As you get into your 50s you might think that you don’t need as much protein as when you were younger, but studies have shown that more protein is necessary as you age. So, how much protein is enough for the average adult?
Recommended Amount of Protein
The average, mostly sedentary, adult in the U.S. is encouraged to consume 10% to 35% of their daily calories in the form of protein. The Department of Agriculture recommends that men and women should get at least .37 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
This works out to be approximately 48 grams for a 130 pound woman and approximately 60 grams for a 160 pound man. The CDC recommends that this amount be divided into 2 or 3 separate servings. In other words, eating all 48 grams in one sitting is not the goal.
For a physically active person, the amount of protein can be increased to help maintain muscle mass. Not getting adequate protein can result in muscle loss, fatigue, and general weakness, slowed metabolism, and impaired immune function. Not eating enough protein can actually put a person at risk for weight gain.
Good Sources of Protein
There are many sources of protein, and not all of which are in the form of animal products. There are several different types of eaters, based on dietary preferences. For comparison purposes, let’s take a look at three common types of diets: meat-based, vegetarian, and vegan.
Meat eaters have many options when it comes to protein. That said, someone on the high protein Paleolithic diet has some restrictions, such as legumes and dairy not being acceptable sources of protein. For those who eat just about everything, feel free to choose from all types of protein from all three lists. Some great sources of lean protein in this category are:
• 3 ounces of chicken = 19 grams of protein
• 3 ounces of fish = 21 grams
• 1 egg = 6 grams
• 4 ounces of beef = 42 grams
Please note that the grams are approximations, based on average amounts.
Vegetarians can choose from both the list below and the vegan list. This category of eater needs to rely on plant and dairy-based protein. Some vegetarians do eat eggs. Good sources include:
• 6 ounces of Greek yogurt = 17 grams of protein
• 4 ounces of cottage cheese = 14 grams
• 2 ounces of cheddar or gouda cheese = 14 grams
Vegans do not consume any animal products, not even honey. This category of eater needs to rely completely on plant-based protein sources. The good news is that there are many. These include:
• 3 ounces of firm tofu = 7 grams
• 8 ounces of cooked quinoa = 8 grams
• 8 ounces of green peas = 8 grams
• 3 ounces of tree nuts = 15 grams (almonds, walnuts, cashews…)
• 4 ounces of seitan = 36 grams
• 4 ounces of cooked beans = 7 grams of protein
The rule of thumb is to try to get a serving of protein at each meal. The portion size should be what could fit in the palm of your hand. The remainder of the meal should be mostly comprised fresh fruits and vegetables.
Including protein in the diet is important for the body to sustain itself. The amount of protein needed is dependent on the level of physical activity and age. Aging bodies do require adequate protein to deter muscle loss. Try to get quality protein from a combination of lean meats and fish, dairy, and/or plant sources.