While plenty talk about protein revolves around gaining muscle, in reality, it isn’t just about #gettingswole. Far from: Adequate protein consumption is critical for just about every bodily function. “Even though it’s associated with building muscles, protein is also vital for organ function and immune system support,” Yasi Ansari, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics, previously shared with Well+Good.
Keep in mind, of course, that long-term positive health outcomes are most closely linked to an overall well-balanced, nutrient-dense, and delicious diet. But when we hone in on protein specifically, how much should we consume on the reg? Extensive evidence points to 30 grams per meal—yes, per meal.
And although that number is just a benchmark (because your protein needs are highly personalized), we get that packing protein into the vast majority of your meals and snacks can be a bit of a…fuss. Here to offer a helping hand is a super simple protein ‘cheat sheet’ that’ll land you an easy A+ for packing extra nutritious sources of protein into your diet. More ahead on why consuming 30 grams of protein per meal matters and the simple ways to ensure you meet your daily quotas.
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What a 30 gram serving of protein might look like
A helpful cheat sheet is all we need to ace the how-much-protein-to-eat exam. Thankfully, in a recent Instagram post by @lainiecooks_, Lainie Kates offers a much-needed guide that shares several options of exactly what 30 grams of protein look like. In the list, there are 10 different ways to meet your protein intake, from one cup of tempeh to two cups of black beans.
Best part? In the mix, there are vegan, vegetarian, and animal-based protein options to pick from—adequate for incorporating into breakfast, lunch, and dinner. See below.
30 grams of protein cheat sheet:
- 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
- 1 cup tempeh
- 5 oz shrimp (about 10 large shrimp)
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 4 oz chicken (about half of a chicken breast)
- 5 oz grass-fed steak (slightly larger than a deck of cards)
- 1 1/2 cups tofu
- 2 cups black beans
- 5 oz wild-caught salmon (about one fillet)
- 5 eggs
So, why is it so important that we eat enough protein daily?
In the same post, Kates offers a few key reasons why adequate protein consumption matters in the first place:
- Adequate protein intake plays an important role in maintaining muscle mass, especially as we age.
- Protein helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. (Protein takes longer to digest than sugar, slowing down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.)
- Protein helps boost your energy, mood, brain functioning throughout the day.
Can you consume too much protein?
Is consuming excessive protein really that necessary? In short, no—emphasis on the “excess.”
“Any excess protein that is consumed beyond [what your body needs] will be excreted through the urine and essentially go to waste,” Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CDN, NASM-CPT, deputy nutrition director for the Good Housekeeping Institute, previously shared with Well+Good. “Eating too much protein can put unnecessary stress on the kidneys and do harm over time. It can also result in elevated urinary calcium, which can contribute to bone loss and the development of osteoporosis and osteopenia over time,” Sassos says.
Remember that 30 grams of protein is simply a benchmark. Body composition, age, sex, physical activity level, underlying conditions, and a host of other factors play a role in the amount of protein you should be consuming regularly.
Of course, other factors should be taken into account to determine the best course of action for each individual. Remember that 30 grams of protein is simply a benchmark. Body composition, age, sex, physical activity level, underlying conditions, and a host of other factors play a role in the amount of protein you should be consuming regularly. However, generally speaking, for a better understanding of the amount of protein needed, Sassos recommends multiplying your weight in kilograms by 0.8 to determine your protein intake. (For example, a 165-pound individual would consume 60 grams of protein daily.)
If you’re unsure about the adequate amount of protein to consume, you should consult a registered dietitian to determine what’s best for you.
A registered dietitian shares the top vegan and vegetarian sources of protein: