Protein is required for growth and maintenance of all body tissues. Proteins are composed of 22 different amino acids, some of which are essential. This means we cannot make them in our bodies, so we have to get them from food. A complete protein is one that has a balance of all the essential amino acids. Good sources of complete protein include animal protein foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese.

Plant foods also contain protein. However, plant foods have imbalanced amounts of amino acids, and may lack one or more essential amino acid(s). For this reason, if you do not eat animal protein, it is important to consume a variety of plant foods over the course of a day in order to get all of the amino acids. Complete plant proteins can be achieved by combining legumes with grains, or legumes with seeds.

What is Adequate Daily Protein Intake?

  • 10 – 35% of daily of your calories should come from protein.
  • Example: for an average 2000 calorie diet, this is 50 – 175 grams of protein.
  • Or, minimum intake can be determined by calculating 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (about 0.36 grams per pound).
  • Example: for someone who weighs 170 pounds, intake should be at least 61 grams.

Examples of Protein Content in Foods:

Food Item Amount of Protein
8oz Milk 8 grams
1 Egg 7 grams
1 Tbsp Peanut Butter 4.5 grams
3oz Meat, Fish, Poultry, or Cheese 21 grams
½ Cup Grains 3 grams

For most individuals, it is best to get protein from food sources. If you use supplements, you will miss out on other nutrients such as the B vitamins in meat, the fiber in beans, and the choline in eggs.

Did You Know?

Excessive protein intake is not beneficial. In fact, excessive intake can cause:

  • Dehydration
  • Weight gain, as excessive calories from too much protein can be stored as fat
  • Kidney problems
  • Nutrient deficiencies

Protein is not stored in the body as well as carbohydrates and fats are, so eat some at every meal, especially breakfast.