Most people get enough protein. But are you making the best protein choices, or are you in a rut?
You need protein for your muscles, bones, and the rest of your body. Exactly how much you need changes with age:
- Babies need about 10 grams a day.
- School-age kids need 19-34 grams a day.
- Teenage boys need up to 52 grams a day.
- Teenage girls need 46 grams a day.
- Adult men need about 56 grams a day.
- Adult women need about 46 grams a day (71 grams, if pregnant or breastfeeding)
You should get at least 10% of your daily calories, but not more than 35%, from protein, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Choose the Healthiest Sources of Protein
Just about every type of food has protein. Some have more than others. Whether you eat meat or not, you can get enough protein from your diet.
Apart from protein, you might also want to think about what else you're getting from protein-rich foods.
For instance, to limit saturated fat, you'd want to choose lean cuts of meat over fattier cuts. And to cut back on sodium, skip the processed meats like hot dogs and sausage.
If you're trying to get more omega-3s, you might choose salmon, tuna, or eggs fortified with omega-3s.
If you need to get more fiber, look to beans, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.
To help lower the chance of getting heart disease, it's a good idea to limit the amount of red meat, especially processed red meat, and eat more fish, poultry, and beans, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. Most nutritionists agree the best approach is to choose from a variety of protein sources.
If you're watching your weight, try including protein with every meal. It will help you feel full longer. Spreading protein evenly across your meals is also good for your muscles, which is especially important as you get older and start to lose muscle mass.