Food Facts: Protein

Protein is one of the big three; that is, it is one of the macronutrients that our body must have in order to function properly. The typical American diet tends to get enough protein, but it is extremely important that you get an adequate amount of it, as it is vital to your body!

Protein sources are abundant in many foods, so it is quite simple to get the recommended amount each day. Women 19-30 years of age, need 5 ½ ounces and men, of the same age group, need 6 ½ ounces of protein daily. Most people consume much more than the recommended amount; therefore, the excess is stored as energy. When picking meats or fish, it is pretty clear as to how many ounces of protein you are eating; if it is the size of a standard deck of playing cards or the palm of an average hand, you are eating 3 ounces worth of protein, essentially half of what you need! However, when eating nonmeat sources it may not be so easy to recognize how much protein is in a food. One large egg, one tablespoon of peanut butter, two tablespoons of hummus, ¼ cup cooked beans or peas, or ½ an ounce of nuts is considered a one ounce equivalent of protein.In addition, a soy or bean burger patty counts as a two ounce equivalent and a drained can of tuna has three to four ounces of protein.

As you can tell, there are many animal and vegetables sources of proteins. Animal sources have complete proteins, while vegetables sources are incomplete, meaning they are lacking sufficient amounts of at least one essential amino acid. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and, therefore, must be obtained through the diet. In order for non-meat eating persons to obtain all their essential amino acids, they must eat several different protein sources to make a diet complete. Some ways in which protein sources can be combined to get complete proteins is by eating peanut butter and jelly or eating rice and beans.

Protein is essential for having a healthy functioning body. It is used to build bones, muscles, and blood, to name a few. In addition, it is needed to make the hormones, vitamins, and enzymes your body needs to function. While it is important to be sure that you are getting your daily protein intake, it is also key to keep in mind that protein sources can be fatty, so pay attention to the foods you’re eating and choose lower fat options! Take the skin off of chicken before cooking or eating it, or choose lean cuts of meat instead of the fattier ones.

Make your protein intake healthier. Make it your goal to consume the recommended amount, without overeating protein filled foods. Remember, you don’t only have to eat meat to get protein, so, make yourself a little healthier and help the environment by trying non-meat protein sources!

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Center of Disease Control and Prevention

Harvard School of Public Health


MyPlate Continued

Northwestern University Nutrition

United States Department of Agriculture: MyPlate


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