Why do we need adequate protein as we age?

Living in the fast lane means we often don’t stick to our plans to eat a ‘balanced’ meal. One of the things we often miss out on is adequate amounts of protein. Proteins are the structures our body builds – from the hair on our heads to the nails on our toes. Over half of our body’s dry weight is protein.

How much protein should we eat?

We need between 45 to 80 grams of protein a day. We regularly consume twice this much. In general, if you are getting enough calories, you are almost always getting enough protein. Most animal products are between 20% and 30% protein. For example, a 100g piece of steak will contain about 29g of protein and a piece of fish about 22g. Legumes contain approximately 15% protein with soy and nuts containing about 20%.

Higher protein intakes may be helpful for those undertaking an exercise program, in pregnant women and those with increased protein turnover (e.g. recovering from surgery or illness, cancer, burns). In particular, there is some advantage in consuming extra protein around the time of exercise, when muscles are at their most needy. Certainly if you are following the slow aging exercise plan and doing weights, you absolutely need your protein and if you are anything like me you need to boost it.

Options for optimal protein intake

  • Cook plant protein alternatives to meat protein such as legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, tofu and tempeh
    • Substitute quinoa for rice
    • Buy bread which has amaranth as a key ingredient
    • Substitute buckwheat pancakes for those made with white flour
  • Add beans to your diet; you’ll also get the added benefit of boosting your soluble fibre intake
    • Buy a salad recipe book containing lots of bean dishes
    • Make your own soup with beans as a key ingredient
    • Buy a slow cooker and add beans to casseroles
    • Substitute beans for meat in tacos
    • Make your own hummus with chickpeas. A great alternative to butter on bread and crackers
  • Choose seafood instead of meat
  • Eat soy protein which is found in tofu, tempeh, soy flour and edamame
  • To ensure you get a full complement of protein from vegetarian sources, combine the following protein sources in at least one meal per day:
    • Legumes with grains
    • Legumes with nuts
    • Grains and nuts
  • Avoid overcooked and processed protein sources
  • Cook fish, chicken or red meat fresh rather than choosing processed, pre-packaged or deli style foods


Last Reviewed: 27-Oct-2011

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Whilst wielding a couple of dumbbells in a gym class in 2003, Kate experienced an epiphany around the lack of accepted best practice guidelines when it came to staying well and avoiding disease. Kate realized that she had no chance of slowing her own aging process unless she became better educated about her options.

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