Protein in the diet is riding a huge wave of popularity. A national survey showed around three-fourths of consumers said they want more of it in their diets. Weight loss, help with strength development, and avoiding age-related muscle loss are attractive benefits. So, how do you get it? There are many good sources, but there is also misinformation circulating, so don’t be duped.
A comparison making the rounds on the Internet – again – claims broccoli has more protein than steak. Ah, but read the claim carefully to realize that’s per calorie, not per ounce. Let’s add some context. A six-ounce steak amounts to around 100 calories. It would require eating three cups of broccoli to reach the same calorie level and only then is there more protein. I like broccoli, but that’s a lot to eat in one sitting!
I also had an interesting Twitter conversation with a fellow who tried to convince me a salad contains more protein than a steak. Nutritionists know such claims are false, but recent research indicates consumers don’t have a good understanding of the protein benefits of eating meat. A survey shows around one-third did not consider chicken or pork high in protein and beef fared only slightly better.
What’s the proper amount of protein to include in your daily diet? It depends on things like gender, age, and how much you weigh. The recommended daily allowance is .36 grams per pound of body weight. Generally speaking, the average woman needs about 46 grams of protein daily – about ten grams less than men. Three ounces of lean meat, a couple of eggs, two tablespoons of peanut butter and eight ounces of yogurt together add up to about 50 grams of protein.
How active you are is also a consideration. Studies show having high-protein foods or drinks after physical exertion helps build and restore muscle.
Research by Joel Stager, a physiologist and director of the Human Performance laboratory at Indiana University, says chocolate milk is a catch-all workout recovery drink. In an article in Fitness magazine, Stager says chocolate milk has double the protein and carbohydrate content compared to plain milk, water or most sports drinks. Its high water content replaces fluids lost as sweat, preventing dehydration. Plus, it packs a nutritional bonus of calcium, and includes just a little sodium and sugar — additives that help recovering athletes retain water and regain energy.
Older people also need to make sure they get enough protein because it gets easier to lose muscle as we age. Health and nutrition is personal and seeking guidance from a professional is a good idea. My friend Leah McGrath, a registered dietitian, always has some good tips on her Facebook page.
What’s the best source of protein? The skinless chicken breast has been a popular choice among health-conscious people in recent years and is a great choice, but health experts say you can realize similar benefits from a steak. A lean cut of beef has barely more saturated fat than a similar-sized chicken breast. Pork also offers plenty of protein without too much fat, and pork cuts are much leaner than they were decades ago.
Eggs are also a good source of lean protein, even though there is cholesterol in the yolk. Experts say the cholesterol you eat does not raise levels in your blood. Fish is also loaded with protein, is almost always low in fat, and contains heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids which most people don’t get enough of.
The USDA’s MyPlate program lists meat along with dairy products, soy, nuts, and vegetables as important protein providers in a well-balanced diet. Both animal-based and plant-based proteins have health benefits.
Protein is important, but eating a balanced diet is vital for good health and well-being. Food gives our bodies the energy, protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals to live, grow and function properly. We’re lucky to have such a wide variety of different foods available to provide the right amounts of nutrients for good health.
I welcome your thoughts and questions. Please feel free to send me an email at AskDrDorman@pahc.com or call me at 844-288-3623. You can also browse our Resource Library to learn more about this important topic.