Your Facebook questions answered: Am I getting enough protein?

Question: “I make all my food from scratch – bread, soups, sauces, casseroles, muesli, yogurt, etc. I never buy prepared foods. In addition, while I am not a vegetarian, I don’t eat meat, except chicken, fish, and seafood two or three times a week. I also eat dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. Eggs, pulses and tofu are also part of my diet. My problem is figuring out if I get enough protein. I can’t simply look at the nutritional information on a package. Is there an easy way of figuring out how much I get on average in a day? Do you know of a table somewhere that might tell me how much I am getting if I throw in a handful of pulses and whole grain or rice, and a bit of smoked tofu into a dish?”, asks Enlightened Eater Facebook fan, Marie Gouin.

Answer: Marie, first of all I’d like to say that while not buying packaged foods does make it harder to see, at first glance, the amount of various nutrients, cooking from scratch is indeed something we should all be aiming for. Though there are healthy packaged foods, eating fewer ultra-processed foods would lead to a healthier population.

As for protein requirements, this has become somewhat of a controversial topic as there is debate as to whether the daily recommendation of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight is indeed adequate. But most people, except for certain populations groups, such as the elderly, even the higher amounts, if needed, are being consumed.

Protein is required for a host of functions from head to toe and for every system in the body. But its popularity has soared over the past few years as protein’s impact on muscle mass, appetite regulation and weight management is being highlighted. As people clamour for more protein, food companies are jumping on the bandwagon either by adding more protein or simply by touting their products’ protein content on the label.

To calculate your needs according to the above formula, click here.   Using the calculator, you would see that a woman weighing 145 pounds would need a minimum of 53 grams of protein.

Take a look at some of these foods and their protein content:

• Tuna, canned white – 3 ounces – 20 grams

• Shrimp, cooked – 3 ounces – 20 grams

• Greek yogurt* – 3/4 cup – 17 grams

• Tofu, firm – 1/2 cup – 11 grams

• Hemp Hearts – 1/4 cup – 10 grams

• Cow’s milk – 1 cup – 8 grams

• Quinoa- 1 cup cooked – 8 grams

• Cheese, cheddar – 1 ounce – 7 grams

• Edamame (fresh soybeans) – 1/2 cup – 7 grams

• Egg – 1 large – 6 grams

• Chick peas – 1/2 cup – 6 grams

• Almonds – 1 ounce or 1/4 cup – 6 grams

• Whole grain bread- 1 30-gram slice – 3 grams

• Broccoli, cooked – 1/2 cup – 2 grams

*Not all Greek yogurts are made in the traditional way resulting in some having a much lower protein count. Be sure to check the label.

Here’s a more comprehensive list from the magazine, Today’s Dietitian, that shows many more foods.

Timing is key

As you can see by the above, if you’re eating a variety of nutritious foods through the day, you likely won’t fall short on your protein intake. But, according to the latest research, it’s not just how much you eat but when you eat it. Here in North America, many people eat a majority of their protein at night, rather than spread out through the day. Besides affecting appetite control, having most of your protein at one time can lead to an impact on muscle mass and strength. It’s your muscle or lean body mass that affects your metabolic rate or calorie burning capacity. It’s the loss of muscle mass that can go hand in hand with increased age that can lead to waist management issues and weight gain along with a loss of both energy and strength.

In a Quebec study of more than 1700 elderly subjects over a 3-year period, published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those who consumed a more even distribution of protein through the day had greater muscle strength than those who consumed a more lopsided intake. Other research has also shown a greater muscle mass in both middle aged and elderly subjects when protein-rich foods are more evenly distributed.

 

Still to come: Tips for a more even protein intake plus the scoop on protein powders and bars

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Categories: Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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One Comment on “Your Facebook questions answered: Am I getting enough protein?”

  1. Marie Gouin
    October 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

    Thank you so much for your reply, Rosie. I now know that I am getting all the protein I need, and more. As I usually have a protein of some sort at every meal, I am also doing well on your point that proteins should be distributed throughout the day.

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