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Protein packs many benefits. You may be familiar with its ability to reduce appetite and hunger levels to help with satiety, its capability in rebuilding and repairing tissues and its use in making enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals, to name a few. The perception of which types and how much protein we need and get, however, is another story.
What’s in a common serving? Lean protein from animal sources packs in about 7 grams per ounce. You’ll get approximately 2 grams per 1/2 cup vegetable serving, negligible from fruits, 5-15 grams per cup of beans or legumes and up toward 10 grams per serving of unprocessed grains (think quinoa, sorghum, kamut).
So, how much is enough?
First calculate your own protein needs. A general recommendation for healthy, moderately active persons requires you to divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. Multiply that result by 0.8 – 1.0 and that becomes the approximate number of grams of protein you’d need per day.
For a 150 pound male or female, their weight divided by 2.2 is 68kg. Their protein needs per day would range between 54-68 grams per day.
Based on this total, you can see how an egg white omelet with beans and vegetables for breakfast, bean laden vegetable based chili with a piece of whole grain bread for lunch, fruit and nuts for an afternoon snack and salmon (3-4 ounces), broccoli and brown rice for dinner can clock in at 65-70 grams.
But what about carbohydrate limiting diets, like paleo or keto, or the Standard American Diet (SAD)?
Change the diet to a large omelet with cheese, turkey sausage and vegetables for breakfast, a post workout smoothie with 1-2 scoops of added protein powder, a burger with French fries for lunch, cheese, jerky and nuts for a snack, 6 ounces turkey with1/2 sweet potato and green beans for dinner and you can rack up over 125 grams, not including dessert!
Plant proteins are kinder to our system (especially true for the heart and kidneys) and far less inflammatory. In replacing some of the animal protein with plant protein you don’t lose any protein quality, nor do you risk being protein deficient. While it is true that you have to choose more selectively (after all, French fries and potato chips are also plant based), you can still get plenty of protein.
Gone is the myth of having to combine your proteins, such as eating a grain with beans for example, if you’re not eating any protein from animal sources. It’s now known that eating protein from a variety of sources throughout the day will suffice in order to get adequate, complete proteins.
So, choose good quality proteins, limit the processed kind and try to swap out an animal based protein for a plant based option one meal a day!