We now know how important protein is to make our body function well, so now we are going to look at how much protein we should be consuming and what are the best forms of protein.
How much protein should we be eating?
According to the experts a sedentary female should be consuming about 46g of protein a day OR 0.8kg/per kg of weight/per day.
So what does that look like?
Roughly 2 scrambled eggs on whole meal toast for breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and a chicken, rice and salad for dinner will give you around 46g.
Unfortunately (apart from the fact that the above is almost void of health boosting veggies) 46g will only prevent deficiency, most nutrition scientists are realising that it is nowhere near enough to be truly healthy.
We know the body needs about 25g – 30g of protein to break it down and build back up (aka protein synthesis) in a way that will mean the body can function the best it can. In practice that means 25g-30g per meal (about 90g per day). Anything over 30g, and the body will just remove it from the body.
If we are active and of a more mature age, then we need that 30g as we become less efficient at breaking it down and building it up. Think of protein as lego – we need to pull it to bits so we can then create the masterpiece we need i.e. healthy skin, or hormones etc.
So what does 30g look like? Here are some foods and how much protein is in them:
- 1 cup lentils – 18g protein
- 1 cup edamame beans – 21g
- Serving of Protein powder – 15-20g approx.
- 1 cup chickpeas – 16g
- 1 cup quinoa – 8g
- ½ cup almonds – 16g
- 1 tin baked beans – 20g
- 1 small tin fish – 20g
- 6 heaped tsp Greek Yoghurt (Greek Yoghurt tends to be richer in protein) – 20g
- 200mL full fat milk – 8g
- 1 small tub cottage cheese – 20g
- 1 egg – 6-8g (dependent on size)
- 100g tofu – 8g
- 22g per 100g salmon
- 28g per 100g chicken
We generally don’t eat as much protein as we should. Vegetarians are recommended to combine various protein sources to make sure they get all of the amino acids that make up protein e.g. nuts/seeds and grains, grains and legumes, legumes and nuts/seeds.
So can we eat too much protein?
There isn’t really a clear and agreed definition of a ‘high protein diet’ although generally it is considered to be anything over 20% of energy coming from protein. This doesn’t really mean much as the recommended amount is between 15-25% and some studies suggest that as much as 30% from energy should come from protein.
Because our bodies require 25-30g of protein, I would suggest 90g per day is considered enough. I would suggest anything above this is probably – ‘high protein’. What is too much really depends on you and how you feel.
Anything over 30g and our bodies will excrete it via our kidneys. Protein has been blamed for causing various health conditions including cancer and kidney disease. The research, however, doesn’t appear to back this up.
A high protein diet may accelerate damage to those who already have kidney damage (due to the extra work required) but the research does not show damage to kidneys in healthy people. A higher protein intake of about 90g/day and 20-25% day has been shown to improve bone density and is preventative of fractures and osteoporosis.
Whilst animal derived protein (mainly red meat, burnt meat and processed meat) has been associated with cancer; fish, chicken and vegetarian forms of protein are extremely good for us.
The bottom line is we NEED protein and as women we generally don’t eat anywhere near enough. What usually happens is we eat a little or nothing for breakfast, not much for lunch and huge amounts for dinner. We really need to aim for a good amount of protein (25-30g) at every meal.
Take a look at your own diet and see where you can improve your protein intake, try some vegetarian options and be a little bit more inventive. Remember if you want Sarah to analyse your diet give us a shout as we offer this on our coached programme and also as a stand alone service.