Protein is a critical component of a healthy diet

Use this information to build a foundation of healthy eating that incorporates the daily recommended amount of protein.

What do you think of when you hear the word “protein?” Many individuals think of beef, chicken, ham, pork or steak. But few realize other sources of protein include peanut butter, seafood, beans, nuts and eggs. The United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate protein food group includes all foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds. Foods in the protein group provide our bodies with essential nutrients such as B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium.

Protein foods are critical for a healthy body; proteins function as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. But it’s important to note that choosing foods from this group that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol may lead to health concerns. Choose lean or low-fat meats and poultry often. Variety is important when adding protein foods to your diet. Add seafood to your diet on a regular basis and enjoy beans, peas and nuts often. Try baked beans, split pea or lentil soup, hummus or chili with kidney beans to add a variety of proteins to your diet.

The serving size for protein foods are measured in one ounce equivalents. In general, one ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, one egg, one tablespoon of peanut butter, or a half ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as one ounce equivalent. So if you had two eggs for breakfast, they would equal 2 ounces of protein or if you had a 3 ounce chicken breast that would be equivalent to 3 ounces of protein.

How much protein do you need each day? Recommendations depend on your age, gender and physical activity level. For adults who get less than 30 minutes of daily physical activity the recommendation is as follows:

  • Women ages 19-30 — 5 ½ ounces
  • Women ages 31+ — 5 ounces
  • Men ages 19-50 — 6 to 6 ½ ounces
  • Men age 51+ — 5 ½ ounces

To find your personal recommendations for all the food groups, visit the MyPlate Daily Food Plan. The interactive tools allows you to enter your age, gender and physical activity level to view a unique plan for you, your children or other family members. Starting with your own plan is a great way to set healthy eating and physical activity goals, and to make sure you are getting enough protein in your daily diet.

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