Image by Let Ideas Compete via FlickrI mentioned what protein is and how important it is to have in your diet in my last post. Now, let's talk about how much protein you should have in your diet. According to research on this topic, there is no one-size-fit all answer. Recommendations range from a minimum of 10 percent of your daily caloric intake to a total of 30 percent. However, results from scientific research are now revealing that people who consume higher amounts of protein (20 to 30 percent of their daily caloric intake), while cutting back on their carbohydrate intake, tend to lose weight faster and stay leaner than those people on low-fat diets.
The reason higher protein, lower carbohydrates diets are more conducive to weight loss and maintenance is interesting. First, high-protein foods slow the movement of food from the stomach to the intestines, meaning you feel full longer and don't get hungry as often. Second, protein has a leveling effect on your blood sugar which means you are less likely to get spikes in your blood sugar that lead to cravings for carbohydrates.
Over the years, I have found that eating about 30 percent of my calories from protein works great for me to maintain my weight and muscle mass. Here's how to calculate how many grams of protein equate to 30 percent of your daily caloric intake. First, you must have an idea of how many calories you consume daily. I suggest you keep a food journal for at least a week in which you write down everything you eat and drink and the corresponding quantities. Next, calculate from this journal the total calories you eat each day. You can do this by finding the nutritional data from different sources such as the USDA's National Nutritional Database.
Once you know how many daily calories you are eating, it's easy to calculate how much protein you should be consuming. Let's say the result from the above calculations show that you are eating approximately 1800 calories per day. So, 30 percent of 1800 calories equates to 540 calories you are consuming from protein. Next, you convert the calories from protein to grams by dividing the 540 calories by 4, which equals 134 grams of protein.
Now that you know how much protein you need in your diet here are some good sources of protein listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help you with you serving sizes.
1 ounce meat, fish, poultry equals 7 grams of protein
1 large egg equals 6 grams of protein
4 ounces milk equal 4 grams of protein
4 ounces low-fat yogurt equals 6 grams of protein
4 ounces soy milk equals 5 grams of protein
3 ounces tofu, firm equals 13 grams of protein
1 ounce cheese equals 7 grams of protein
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese equals 14 grams of protein
1/2 cup cooked kidney beans equals 7 grams of protein
1/2 cup lentils equals 9 grams of protein
1 ounce nuts equals 7 grams of protein
2 tablespoons peanut butter equals 8 grams of protein
1/2 cup vegetables equals 2 grams of protein
1 slice bread equals 2 grams of protein
1/2 cup of most grains/pastas equals 2 grams of protein