The building blocks of our muscles, skin, tendons, bones, hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters- protein is an essential nutrient for the body. We hear lots of paradoxical reports concerning how much protein we should be eating… Some people would advise unlimited amounts, while others think we, as a society, eat way too much. This is why you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet- it’s just too damn confusing and conflicting!
The answer is this: there is no “right” amount of protein. It depends entirely on each individual and their specific constitution and biological make-up. While height and weight certainly play a part, they are certainly not the ONLY parts. Current health and immune status, genetics, activity level, and life stage all fit into the equation as well. Eat what works for YOUR body.
Major Roles of Protein
- Used to build, maintain, and repair cells, enzymes, immune system, and hormones
- Helps maintain volume and composition of bodily fluids
- Transports nutrients to various parts of the body
- Can be used for energy is necessary
- Responsible for pigment of eyes
- Provides the raw materials for collagen and elastin, which literally hold us together and are a primary component in our skin
- Immune system and nervous system require protein to make their messengers
Healthy Sources of Protein
- Meats and poultry
- Cheese- cottage, cheddar, feta, etc.
- Whole milk yogurt (plain)
- Whole milk
- Nuts and seeds- almonds, chia and flax seeds, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, pistachios, pecans, etc.
- Protein powder
- Nutritional Yeast
- Peanut and almond butter
Ways to Increase Intake
- Eat meat or fish (almost) daily. More specifically, aim for a 3 oz. portion 6x/week, with a 1 day break. Think meatless Mondays! It gives your body a break- proteins are the hardest of the macronutrients to digest- AND gives the environment a break- animal food production is notoriously energy exertive and greenhouse gas emitting.
- Consciously try to eat a protein-packed food at EVERY meal.
- Add nuts and seeds into your daily diet.
- Make sure you always make or order salads with your choice of lean protein, i.e., fish, steak, chicken, or tempeh. Quinoa is a great addition as well.
- Put a scoop of protein powder into your smoothie or yogurt each morning. You could also make a protein “shake”- simply put a scoop of the powder (chocolate would be preferable) and 1-2 Tbsp. of almond butter into a glass of almond or whole milk and stir. It’s really that simple. And tasty!
- While any type of full-fat plain yogurt will do, Greek yogurt is great because it typically has double the protein. Add cinnamon, protein powder, walnuts, and chia seeds for a delicious, healthy, and filling breakfast.
- Eat eggs for breakfast (or dinner!). Eggs are one of the world’s most nutrient dense foods, so feel free to eat 1-2 daily. Don’t worry about the cholesterol content- studies have shown that there is no clinically significant relationship between dietary cholesterol consumption and heart disease.