The Protein Truths You’ve Been Waiting For

The word of cod. The gospel of tofu. The dogma of soy.

Finally, the 2015 Food and Health Survey has shed light on what Americans think about all things protein (and plenty of other food issues too!). While a few protein facts seem well-known, some of us could use a refresher on the benefits of protein.

 

Protein 101

Gear up for a crash course in protein wisdom, and see if you know protein better than the average American.

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#1 “It is important to get enough protein in your diet”  (Americans nailed it!)

9 out of 10 Americans know it’s important to get enough protein in their diet. We humans are essentially made of proteins; protein provides structure for every cell in the body. Brittle hair, lackluster skin, and fatigue are all symptoms of protein deficiency. Consuming adequate protein allows for optimal muscle growth and keeps us full between meals.

 

#2 “Distributing your protein intake throughout the day is the best way to consume protein.”  (A little weaker…)

1 in 4 Americans are unaware that you need to distribute protein evenly throughout the day to promote muscle health. A 2014 study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that muscle growth is 25% higher when protein is evenly distributed through breakfast, lunch, and dinner, compared to the traditional high-protein evening meal. A good rule of thumb is to get 15-30 grams of protein per meal.

Cheat sheet: 3 oz of chicken has roughly 25 grams of protein, and 3 oz of firm tofu contains 6 grams of protein.

 

#3 “Protein can help maintain muscle as you age” (Needs improvement!)

Almost 20% of Americans are unaware of the benefits of protein in aging. Older adults require consistent protein intake at each meal to maintain muscle health. However, certain diseases and conditions can prevent seniors from preparing foods high in protein - arthritis makes carving meats very difficult, for instance. If this sounds like you or a loved one, try packaged tuna, nut butters, or string cheese. Protein-fortified bars, shakes, and puddings can also supplement your meals and snacks. Weight training and regular exercise are also essential to prevent muscle loss. Remember, it’s never too late to start a new exercise routine!

 

Banishing the Barriers

Now you know protein is essential for overall health. But how you can get it right? Americans told us what their biggest barriers to getting protein are. Here are some tips based off the top three barriers.

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Try affordable protein options.

32% of Americans believe protein foods are often more expensive. But not all protein sources have to be pricey! No matter what your budget is, you can definitely find protein rich foods. Affordable foods that are a good source of protein include: Eggs, tuna, beans, yogurt, soy beans, ground beef, smoothies, and protein bars.

 

Brush up on your protein choices.

15% of Americans do not know which foods contain protein. There are tons of foods available with protein. Whether you try animal proteins like meat, poultry, fish, and dairy, or plant proteins like quinoa, nuts, beans, and soy foods, protein can be found in a variety of foods.

 

Get crafty with your storage.

15% of Americans believe foods with protein spoil too quickly. Your freezer is about to become your new BFF! You can cook any kind of meat (or even plant proteins like soy foods and beans) and freeze it for later use. Casseroles, meatballs, and stews all freeze well and are ready to pop in the oven on a busy weeknight. You can safely store leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for 3-4 months. Wrap them well in plastic wrap or freezer-safe plastic bags.

Also, not all protein sources have a quick expiration date. Jerky, nut butters, dried soybeans, and nuts are all packaged foods that do not spoil quickly. Store some in your bag or car for a protein-packed snack on the go. Some dairy products, like yogurt and cheese, can last up to a month!

 

Barriers be gone! Now you can spread the protein truths to everyone, from your grandma to your gym buddy.