Your Most-Asked Questions About Nutrition: How Much Protein Should I Include in My Diet?

How much protein your body needs varies from person to person. It depends on factors like your age, biological sex, activity level, and health conditions. When thinking about protein, it is helpful to review what types of protein you eat regularly. You do not have to eat meat (or more meat) to get enough protein. 

Whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds provide plant-based protein, along with plenty of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Eat a variety of these plant foods throughout the day and week to get the nutrients your body needs. (By themselves, most of these plant foods are “incomplete” sources of protein – meaning each food provides only a selection of the amino acids your body needs – so variety is important.) Soy is a complete protein, meaning it has all the essential amino acids your body needs – tofu, tempeh, miso, edamame are all great choices. One serving of beans, legumes, or grains is about the size of a clenched fist. Try our Pan-Fried Marinated Tofu for a flavorful Mediterranean twist on an easy tofu recipe. 

If you do eat animal-based proteins, focus on high-quality and lower-fat sources, like chicken, fish, dairy, and eggs. Limit sources high in saturated fat, including red meats (beef, pork, and lamb) and processed meats (bacon, deli meats). Diets high in red and processed meats have been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Keep in mind portion size, especially when eating meat – one serving is about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards. 

Take the Pulse: Protein Packed & Vegetarian

The pulse family includes lentils, peas, and beans, and provides us with some of the least expensive yet most nutritious foods we can eat. They are rich in protein and fiber, and when eaten with whole grains in the context of the overall diet, give our bodies the complete array of proteins.

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