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NOURISH

How to tell if you’re getting enough protein

  • The amount of protein you need varies by your age, gender and activity level. On average, a person who weighs 165 pounds should get 60 grams of protein a day.
  • You are probably getting enough protein if 20-35% of your calories come from quality protein sources combined with healthy carbs and fats.
  • By age 50, we begin to lose muscle mass. You may want to add a few more grams of protein each day and exercise regularly.

We all need protein. Protein is a basic macronutrient that is important to help you build and maintain muscles and other body structures. It also can play a role in helping you manage or lose weight. The fact is though, you are probably getting enough protein if 20-35% of your calories come from quality protein sources combined with healthy carbohydrates and good fats.

Why is protein important? 

The kind of protein you eat is just as important as the amount. Good protein sources are those that contain a high amount of protein compared to calories and fat. In other words, lean protein. US dietary guidelines recommend you get between 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories be from protein but some experts think the bottom range is too low and recommend at least 20 to 35 percent protein.

Protein shakes or high protein energy bars are OK once in awhile, but may contain extra calories. It’s important to balance your eating with good sources of carbohydrates and fats to get all the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. Red meat, high fat dairy foods and fats found in processed foods may lead to an increased risk of heart and vascular disease.

Good food sources of protein

You may first think of meat when you think about protein. But protein is also found in many plant-based foods such as whole grains, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds and even some vegetables. Some good protein choices of all kinds are:

You may need more protein

Some people do benefit from eating a higher percentage of protein each day. This includes people who are:

  • age 50 and older
  • healing or recovering from an accident or surgery
  • living with a chronic health conditions which reduces your appetite or limits your physical activity
  • physically active or an athlete in training
  • trying to lose weight

How much is too much protein?

For most people, it’s tough to eat too much protein. But, if you do, over time, it can begin to take a toll on your body, especially your kidneys. This usually happens when half or more of your daily calories come from protein over an extended period of time. Some negative effects of eating too much protein are:

  • an increased risk of heart and kidney disease
  • constipation or peeing more often than normal
  • fatigue
  • feeling down or depressed
  • an overall poor quality of nutrition

The bottom line on protein

If you are a healthy adult, eating a little more protein is probably OK. Just be sure your protein comes from good sources such as lean meats, low-fat dairy, fish and plant-based foods. Balance your protein with high-fiber carbohydrates and good fats such as olive oil, avocado, and nuts and seeds. Avoid processed carbohydrates, sugars and unhealthy fats.

A registered dietitian or nutrition counselor can talk with you to set up a plan that works for you.

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