Certified Nutritional Therapist, Veronica Wheat, founder of ChefV.com, has surprising news about the protein intake for the average American. Find out if your protein consumption is supporting your health…
I couldn’t believe it when I came across a study that said that most Americans aren’t eating enough protein.
Seriously? We’re the land of burgers. Steak. Wings. Chicken fingers. Bacon. Pork chops. Protein powders. And enough dairy products till the cows come home…
So how can most Americans be deficient in protein? Aren’t most Americans getting too much? Never mind that most Americans’ protein intake consists of factory-farmed meat and dairy. I’m not talking about protein quality here … just straight up grams of protein.
Well, a study from the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging examined the food intake of nearly 12,000 participants. Based on the data, a third of the people were eating 30 grams of protein LESS than they should be.
30 grams of protein is roughly half the amount of protein that an average woman should consume every day. That’s a huge amount of protein that the study participants were missing.
How Much Protein Should You Eat Every Day?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams per day for women. This is not a one-size-fits-all recommendation. For example, if you lift weights or are pregnant (like yours truly; I need a minimum of 60 grams per day according to UCSF), you’ll need more.
It seems really easy to eat 50-60 grams of protein per day. And again, I bet you, like me, think that most Americans are getting way more protein than that. I came across articles that suggest this. Like this one that says “Most Americans eat twice the protein they need.”
But here’s the shocking truth. According to the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the average person consumes far less protein than they need. In fact, some estimates suggest that up to 80% of the population may be protein deficient.
What about you? Are you getting enough protein in your diet? Before we try and figure that out, let’s review why getting enough of this macronutrient is so essential for your health.
Top Benefits of Protein In The Diet
Sinking your teeth into a morsel of protein not only tastes good and curbs hunger.
(Sorry, I have to interject here that I’m a natural plant-based protein advocate. I recommend limiting animal protein to relatively clean, healthy sources like wild salmon.)
And here’s other reasons why you need to eat enough protein every day.
- Contains amino acids that support healthy skin
- Boosts metabolism
- Prevents muscle loss and bone fractures
- Repairs and builds lean muscle
- Maintains strong nails and lustrous hair
- Regulates blood sugar levels
- Supports the immune system
And last but not least, for women, eating enough protein has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. In fact, a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association says that PLANT-BASED protein lowers risk of premature death, heart disease and dementia.
But here’s the thing about protein. You have to eat enough of it every day. That’s because our bodies don’t store excess protein to be used for repairing and supporting the body when needed.
Nope, excess protein, unfortunately, just like carbs, gets stored as body fat.
Why Are People Not Getting Enough Protein?
With so many protein sources to choose from, what are the reasons many people are protein deficient?
For starters, blame it on fast food culture. Most people in the U.S. do not lead a European lifestyle. We rush from one project and appointment to the next. We’re always on the go. We don’t take the time to make well-balanced, nourishing meals.
Instead, many of us wolf down a sandwich for lunch. Then late at night, to make up for the lack of calories consumed during the day, many people snack on processed foods. But those chips, crackers and pretzels barely have any protein. Plus they’re loaded with cheap, rancid vegetable oils and excess sodium.
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Another reason that some people don’t eat enough protein is they simply don’t realize they need more of it. Older people, especially, need more protein to prevent muscle wasting.
The bottom line is that for many people, it’s feast or famine with protein. One day you’re eating a whole steak for dinner. And then the next, it’s back to toast and coffee for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch and then spaghetti for dinner. That’s not enough protein.
How Can You Tell If You’re Protein Deficient
Here’s how you can tell if you need to up your protein intake:
- You’re frequently tired and have low energy
- You have cravings for snacky foods, especially anything with added sugars
- You feel weak
- You get sick often
- You’re moody and irritable
You can easily keep track of your protein intake with apps, many of which are free or low cost. Remember, aim for a minimum of 50 grams a day. I think a little more is actually ideal, so shoot for 60 if you’re a female and 70 for men. The standard formula is 0.8 grams for every 2.2 pounds you weigh. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you should eat 55 grams of protein a day.
To determine how much of a food you need to eat, try this chart from cancerdietician.com.
Best Protein Sources
Here are my favorite protein sources:
- Chef V’s Ultra Vegan Protein Shake (which comes with Chef V’s CLEANSE programs).
- Lentils (make sure they are pre-soaked to avoid bloating)
- Beans (same issue as lentils)
- Non-processed soy (tempeh, edamame)
- Nut milks
- Eggs (pasture-raised only)
- Salmon and other sustainable wild-caught fish.
How Can You Get Enough Protein?
In our land of abundance, getting enough protein should not be hard. I recommend eating protein three times a day. Every morning, I begin my day with a 16 ounce serving of Organic Green Drink. About half an hour later, I’ll make a smoothie with vegan protein powder like brown rice or pea. I always include protein with lunch and dinner. And if you need some healthy meal creation ideas, check out my recipes here as well as my e-book, Making Cleansing Easier, which is included with all my CLEANSE and DETOX programs.
Protein is a dish, best served hot or cold every day.