Protein

Why do I need it? How much? Where do I find it?

Did you know that protein is part of every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies? Indeed, it is! Protein serves as a building block for muscles and, alongside, calcium and vitamin D, is important for strong bones.  You can think of protein as providing the building blocks needed to maintain and repair muscles, tissues, organs and other parts of your body.

Why do we need protein in our diet?

The proteins in your body are continually being broken down and replaced. When we eat protein, it is digested into amino acids, which, are used to build and replace those proteins that have been broken down. Nine of the amino acids in protein are essential amino acids – this means your body cannot make these amino acids on its own and so you must get them from your diet.

How much protein do I need?

While protein needs will vary by age, activity level and health, the recommended daily allowance for adults (>19 years) is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men.  Visit the United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate website (www.ChooseMyPlate.gov) where you will find tools to help you determine how much protein you need per day and what counts toward a serving.

The 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that consumers choose a variety of protein foods and to choose those protein foods that are lower in fat and calories.

Where do I get protein?

When you think protein, you might think of the usual suspects – meat, poultry, eggs, dairy. But you can also get protein from plant sources such as beans, nuts, seeds and some grains. And, now, you can even find it in many of your favorite products, such as breakfast cereals or bars.  

Start your day with protein!

Adding protein to your morning routine doesn’t have to mean bacon and eggs. There are other tasty ways to get protein including cereal. Here’s a look at some common breakfasts and approximate protein content:

  • 1 ¼ cup Cheerios Protein + ½ cup Skim Milk = 11 grams
  • 6 ounces low fat yogurt + ½ cup fruit = 5.5 grams
  • 6 ounces Greek yogurt + ½ cup fruit = 12.5 grams
  • Omelet (2 large eggs, 1 oz cheddar cheese, ½ cup vegetables)  = 20 grams
  • 1 ¼ cup of Cheerios Protein +  6 ounces of Greek Yogurt = 19 grams  
  • Fruit smoothie (1 cup soy milk, 1 medium banana, ½ cup frozen berries) = 9 grams

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2013. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl

References:

  1. 1. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions. Website. Atlanta, GA. Nutrition for Everyone: Protein. http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html
  2. 2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate.gov Website. Washington, DC. Why Is It Important to Make Lean or Low-Fat Choices from the Protein Foods Group? http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/protein-foods-why.html
  3. 3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. December 2010
  4. 4. Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate. Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (2002/2005). This report may be accessed via www.nap.edu
  5. 5. International Food Information Council. Washington, DC. Protein http://www.foodinsight.org/Default.aspx?tabid=1416

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