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Nutrition Notes: Protein – Are You Getting Enough?

Karen LentnerNutritionist Karen Lentner Have you ever thought about protein and how much you need as you age? What is protein and why does your body need it? What foods should you eat to get enough protein?

Proteins are complex molecules or amino acids that play a critical role in our body. Protein is needed to make and repair cells and muscles. We need a constant supply of protein for overall health, muscle strength, balance and preventing falls, and to help recover from illness. It is especially important to eat enough protein as we age as our bodies may not use it as efficiently to maintain muscle mass and strength, including bone strength. If you lose muscle in your legs, for example, this may lead to weakness and feeling tired when walking.

Many older adults do not eat enough protein due to impaired taste, reduced appetite, dental or swallowing problems, limited finances, or you may no longer enjoy the taste of meat. Studies have shown that if you consume an adequate amount of protein, you are more apt to maintain basic bodily functions including your ability to walk and climb stairs, or to get dressed.

How much protein do I need?

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein for healthy adults (age 19 and older) is 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women. This translates to approximately 7 ounces of protein per day for men and approximately 6.5 ounces of protein for women. If you are malnourished, or have a chronic disease, your protein requirements may be higher (possibly 70+ grams per day). Another way to determine your protein needs is to calculate approximate .8 to 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for healthy adults.

Studies have shown that if you consume an adequate amount of protein, you are more apt to maintain basic bodily functions including your ability to walk and climb stairs, or to get dressed.

Good protein sources and how much protein is in food

Approximately 3 ounces of cooked meat, poultry, or fish contain 21 grams of protein.

  • Cheese, 1 ounce = 7 grams of protein
  • Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons = 7 grams
  • Tofu, ½ cup = 10 grams
  • Yogurt, ½ cup = 6 grams
  • Greek yogurt, ½ cup = 12 grams
  • Quinoa, 1 cup cooked = 8 grams
  • Tuna, 4 ounces drained = 22 grams
  • Egg, 1 large = 6 grams
  • Almonds, 1 ounce or 23 almonds = 6 grams
  • Milk, 1 cup = 8 grams
  • Beans (e.g., kidney beans, black beans, lentils), ½ cup = 8 grams

A good way to meet your protein needs is to select a variety of foods from the list above and spread it out throughout the day. To help you get the protein you need, consider joining us for a meal at one of our dining centers (find a complete list here) or call LifePath to set up Meals on Wheels at 413-773-5555. Protein is essential for healing, building, and repairing your cells and body tissue. Eating enough protein every day will help you maintain your health and independence.