Protein is not just for great skin, hair, and nails; it’s critical for health. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to repair damage, digest food, fight infections, build muscle and bone, create hormones, and even think and have good moods. Higher protein diets can help fight high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Not to mention protein’s great benefits for metabolism boosting, satiety (feeling full after a meal), and weight management.
Protein is important, and this is a given.
There are a few factors to consider when calculating how much protein we need. I go through those calculations with you. Then I list the amount of protein in some common foods.
How much protein is enough
There isn’t a real rule that applies equally to everyone. There are a few factors to consider when figuring out how much protein you need.
Start with the minimum recommendation of 0.8 g/kg (0.36 g/lb) per day.
So, for a 68 kg (150 lb) healthy non-athlete adult, this is about 55 g protein/day.
Mind you, this is a minimum to prevent protein deficiency. It’s not optimal for good repair, digestion, immune function, muscle/bone building, hormones, thinking and great moods. It’s not enough for athletes, seniors or those recovering from an injury, either. If you fall into one of these camps, you may need to increase the minimum protein intake. Aim closer to 1.3 g/kg (0.6 g/lb) per day.
Athletes need more protein for their energy and muscle mass. Seniors need more to help ward off muscle and bone loss that’s common in old age. And injured people need more for recovery and healing.
How much protein is too much?
As with fat and carbohydrates, eating too much protein can cause weight gain. Extra protein can be converted into sugar or fat in the body. The interesting thing about protein is that it isn’t as easily or quickly converted as carbohydrates or fat; this is because of its “thermic effect.” The thermic effect is the amount of energy required to digest, absorb, transport and store a nutrient. To digest protein, your body needs to spend energy (i.e., burn calories). More calories than when metabolizing fats or carbohydrates.
If you’re concerned that high protein intake harms healthy kidneys, don’t be. If your kidneys are healthy, they are more than capable of filtering out excess amino acids from the blood. The problem only occurs in people who already have kidney issues.
FUN FACT: Plant proteins are especially safe for kidney health.
How much protein is in food?
- Seitan: also known as wheat meat or wheat gluten, it contains about 25 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
- Tofu, Tempeh and Edamame :10-19 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100 grams
- Lentils: at 18 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml
- Beans: (kidney, black, pinto and chickpeas contain about 15 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml
- Nutritional Yeast: this complete source of plant protein provides the body with 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber per ounce (28 grams
- Hempseed: contains 10 grams of complete, easily digestible protein per ounce (28 grams
- Nut Butters: One ounce (28 grams) contains between 5–7 grams of protein, depending on the nut and seed variety
- Amaranth and quinoa provide 8–9 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml)
- Oats/ Oatmeal: Half a cup (120 ml) of dry oats provides you with approximately 6 grams of protein
- Chia Seeds: At 6 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber per 1.25 ounces (35 grams)
- Soy Milk: it contains 7 grams of protein per cup (240 ml)
- Sprouted grain breads: contain approximately 8 grams of protein, which is slightly more than the average bread
- Spirulina: Two tablespoons (30 ml) provide you with 8 grams of complete protein, in addition to covering 22% of your daily requirements of iron and thiamin and 42% of your daily copper needs
- green peas often served as a side dish contain 9 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml), which is slightly more than a cup of milk.
- hempseed contains 10 grams of complete, easily digestible protein per ounce (28 grams). That’s 50% more than chia seeds and flaxseeds
- 1 cup of any of the following vegetables: broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts contain 4-5g protein
- blackberries, nectarines, and bananas: which have about 2–4 grams of protein per cup
Protein is an essential nutrient we should all get enough of. “Enough” is about 0.8 – 1.3 g/kg (0.36 – 0.6 g/lb) per day. If you’re a healthy non-athlete adult, you can aim for the lower level. If you’re an athlete, senior, or injured person, aim for the higher level.
Too much protein can cause weight gain, so it’s best to have just enough.
I’d love to know: Are you one of those people who needs more protein? Let me know in the comments.
Recipe (high-protein): Marinated Peanut Tempeh
Recipe Adapted from: Minimalist Baker
- 8 ounces (227 g) tempeh (if GF, ensure gluten-free friendly)
- 1 fresh or dried bird’s eye chili, minced/crushed (or sub 1/4 tsp red pepper flake)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp (20 ml) sesame oil (if avoiding oil, leave this out and add a bit more lime, soy sauce, and maple syrup)
- 2 Tbsp (32 g) salted creamy peanut (or almond, cashew, or sun butter)
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) gluten-free tamari (or soy sauce if not GF)
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) lime juice
- 3 Tbsp (45 ml) maple syrup
- Add tempeh to a skillet or saucepan filled with about 1 inch of water and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Steam tempeh for a total of about 12 minutes, flipping once at the halfway point. Then rinse, pat dry, and cut into thin, bite-size pieces. We recommend slicing the tempeh in half lengthwise then separating them into small triangle like pieces. (The smaller the pieces, the better they can soak up the marinade.) Set aside.
- Mix marinade by adding peanut butter, tamari, chili, sesame oil, lime juice, and maple syrup. Whisk to combine. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more crushed chili for heat, maple syrup for sweetness, lime juice for acidity, or tamari for saltiness. Mix and match how you like ideally you want this extremely flavorful!
- Marinade the tempeh, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, it is recommended 24 hours as it infuses most of the flavor. While marinating, toss/stir and mix frequently to ensure you evenly coat.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) once the tempeh is marinated, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add tempeh and keep any leftover marinade to brush the tempeh once baked.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes or until caramelized and deep golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with any remaining marinade.
Tip: Serve with lots of veggies.