The Protein Myth

People falsely believe vegetarians can’t get enough protein, when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The misconception lies in an ignorance of how much protein we really need. Because fledgling vegetarians buy into this lie all the time, it’s time to set the record straight and give them some cannon fodder.

The CDC recommends that men age 19 and older get 56 grams of protein a day and women in the same age range get 46 grams. And when you look at the protein content of foods like yogurt – Chobani Blueberry Greek Yogurt contains 18 grams, or 36 percent daily recommended amount, of protein – it’s plain to see that getting protein isn’t the issue but getting the amount you need is.

Researchers from University of Southern California and the Longevity Institute published a study that suggests excessive protein consumption can lead to an early death. Existing information supports this conclusion because high-protein consumption goes hand-in-hand with high fat and low dietary fiber intake.

protein/death graphs

The authors suggested a reduction in animal proteins. Reactions to the study have been mixed, but many of the recommendations fit in with current research and anecdotal recommendations.

Frankly, the issue comes down to lifestyle. As I said, getting protein isn’t the problem, but getting the right amount is. Most Americans get too much protein for their sedentary lifestyles. For most of us, the recommended 46 to 56 grams is more than enough. Your protein needs change, however, once you get up and move.

Matt Frazier, No Meat Athlete blogger, puts this protein puzzle into perspective. He looks at protein needs based on exercise – long distance running, et cetera – to make protein intake recommendations. He also stresses the importance of protein grams to caloric intake. The Longevity Institute and CDC agree with Matt that we need only between 10 to 20 percent of our caloric intake to come from protein. Any more and weight, heart, and kidney health issues arise.

Protein needs remain less than popular misconception and need to be adjusted to fit your level of physical activity. For example, sitting and blogging requires little protein, but biking and mountain climbing do. Below are a few resources to tailor your protein needs with your lifestyle:



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