GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Years ago when the Atkins diet was the craze, people became convinced that high protein diets are the key to weight loss. People began drastically reducing their carb intake and upping their intake of protein. Atkins followers also ate lots of red meat and dairy products to load up on protein. Meantime, many nutritionists became concerned about the amount of ingested saturated fat, lack of necessary nutrients, and lack of fiber.
Today, people are more aware that red meat and saturated fat are linked to heart disease, but the ramifications of the Atkins school of thinking remain.
So, how much is too much when it comes to protein? More protein doesn't always mean better. It's true that protein needs differ based on your health, body type and activity level. Made up of amino acids, protein helps build our muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, hair, and blood. However, excess volumes of protein won't necessarily help you develop oversized biceps or lose weight quick. Furthermore, it's what you are getting with your protein consumption that matters most.
Take this example from the Harvard School of Public Health:
A 6-ounce broiled porterhouse steak is a great source of protein, about 40 grams worth. But it also delivers about 38 grams of fat, 14 of them saturated. That's more than 60 percent of the recommended daily intake for saturated fat. The same amount of salmon gives you 34 grams of protein and 18 grams of fat, 4 of them saturated. A cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein, but under 1 gram of fat.
Your protein recommendation is easily attained through a balanced diet. It's true that protein can't be stored in the body like fat and carbohydrates, so we need to replenish the supply every day. Yet the actual amount needed may surprise people accustomed to caveman sized steaks.
A chicken breast and a few handfuls of nuts supply all the protein that most healthy American adults need in a day. The official RDA for adult men and women is 0.8g for each kg of body weight per day, about 55 grams of protein for a 150 pound person. Some athletes will eat up to 1 gram of protein per pound for the best performance and health. If you are trying to lose weight, base this calculation on your goal weight, not your current weight.
Choose good sources of animal protein. The best animal protein choices are fish, poultry, eggs and low fat dairy. If you love red meat, stick with the leanest cuts, choose moderate portion sizes, and make it only an occasional part of your diet.
You don't need meat to get enough protein. You can get your protein from plant-based sources no doubt. Vegetarians do it everyday. Great sources of plant protein include whole grains, nuts, seeds, sprouts, legumes, and organic soy foods. Dark green, leafy vegetables, like kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus and peas also have easily absorbed protein. Sea plants such as algae, spirulina and chlorella are filled with protein and of course protein powders can be an easy supplement like BiPro protein powder. It's all natural and doesn't have artificial flavors or added sugar.
To assess how much protein is in the food you eat, here's a great reference guide with approximate amounts of protein per serving:
- Lean ground beef, 4 ounces - 28 grams protein
- Steak, 6 ounces - 42 grams
- Chicken breast, 4 ounces - 30 grams protein
- Prok chop 4 ounces - 25 grams protein
- Most fish fillets, 3.5 ounces - 22 grams of protein
- Tuna, 4 ounce pouch - 20 grams of protein
Eggs and Dairy
- Egg, large - 6 grams protein
- Milk, 1 cup - 8 grams
- Cottage cheese, ½ cup - 15 grams
- Yogurt, 1 cup - 8-12 grams (Greek yogurt has about 5 more grams)
- Soft cheeses 6 grams per ounce
- Medium and hard cheeses (Cheddar, Parmesan) - 7 -10 grams per ounce
Beans (including soy)
- Tofu, ½ cup 10 grams protein
- Soy milk, 1 cup - 6 -10 grams
- Most beans (black, pinto, lentils, etc) about 7-10 grams protein per half cup of cooked beans
- Soy beans, ½ cup cooked - 14 grams protein
- Peas, ½ cup cooked - 8 grams
Nuts and Seeds
- Peanut butter, 2 Tablespoons - 8 grams protein
- Almonds, ¼ cup - 8 grams
- Peanuts, ¼ cup - 9 grams
- Cashews, ¼ cup - 5 grams
- Pecans, ¼ cup - 2.5 grams
- Sunflower seeds, ¼ cup - 6 grams
- Pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup - 8 grams
- Flax seeds - ¼ cup - 8 grams
- Spinach, 1-2 cups - 5.3 grams of protein
- Asparagus and broccoli 2 cups - 4.6 grams
- Collard greens and Brussels sprouts 2 cups -4 grams
- Green peas, 1 cup - 8.6 grams protein
Fitness Expert Chris Freytag provided the protein information. Visit chrisfreytag.com for more great health tips.