Healthy Aging: Are You Getting Enough Protein in Your Diet?

You may have noticed protein bars and shakes popping up at grocery stores or gyms. It’s become a buzzword seen in magazines and heard on talk shows around the country. So it might be surprising that a recent study found almost half of older adults are not getting enough protein, thus negatively impacting their health. 

So, what role should protein play in our diet? 

different types of protein on a platter

Protein can be thought of as one of the building blocks to our muscles, bones and blood. Not only does protein help keep our body strong, it helps promote good balance and mobility– all important factors to being able to live independently as we age. 

Additionally, protein helps combat common signs of aging, like declines in muscle mass, strength and function, which can put you at greater risk of falling and fracturing bones. 

But before you grab the nearest protein bar, let’s discuss exactly how much protein you should consume per day. 

How much protein do I need?

The National Academy of Medicine’s recommended dietary allowance for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. For adults who weigh 195 pounds that’s 71 grams per day; and for those who weigh 170 pounds that’s 62 grams per day. To determine how much protein is right for you, use this online calculator

While it is helpful to know how many grams of protein you should aim to consume each day, knowing the amount of protein in the foods we eat can be a bit of a mystery. Below are some sources of high-quality protein and the corresponding amount of protein in each, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture FoodData Central database: 

  • 1 chicken breast: 54 grams/protein
  • ½ fillet of salmon: 40 grams/protein 
  • 1 cup cooked lentils:18 grams/protein  
  • 1 cup cooked black beans:15 grams/protein 
  • 1 container Greek yogurt (plain, nonfat):10 grams/protein 
  • 1 egg: 6 grams/protein 

Bottom line

If you feel you might benefit from adding some additional sources of protein into your diet, be sure to talk with your doctor before making any drastic changes. 

Increasing your protein consumption will not be a silver bullet to keeping your body healthy as you age; staying physically active is also important to help maintain your health and live your best life