All About Protein: What, Where, How Much and More

Monday, January 30, 2017

In the battle between low-carb and low-fat, protein seems to be the good guy that’s sitting in the middle. Why is protein good for us, and how much should we eat? We’ve got the low-down:

What is Protein and Why is it Important?

Proteins are molecules made up of amino acids which essentially serve as the building blocks for all the cells in our body. Adequate protein intake is important in helping us prevent muscle and bone loss as we age, and it also helps to maintain a strong immune system.

Compared to carbohydrates and fat, protein is more satisfying, making us feel fuller for longer. It is thought that this is partly due to the fact that it slows digestion, which in turn helps to blunt the blood sugar response and give us a steady release of energy instead of sugar highs with the subsequent crash.

How Much Protein Do I Need?

The current guidelines recommend that a typical adult consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or 0.36 g/lb) per day. In other words, a 70 kg (154 lb) person would require 56 g of protein per day. However, many studies suggest that protein needs, especially for adults over the age of 65, are higher than this, at 1-1.2 g/kg (0.45-0.54 g/lb) per day. If you engage in regular physical activity, your needs may be even higher than this.

How Much Protein is Too Much?

The average person does not need more than 2 g/kg (0.9 g/lb) of protein per day. While it was previously thought that high protein intakes can harm your kidneys[1], recent studies show that too much protein is only harmful if you already have existing kidney issues.

Though excess protein itself is not harmful for most people, including too much protein in your diet could mean you are missing out on other important nutrients and foods that promote good health. A balanced diet should include protein-rich foods, but should also include vegetables, fruit, whole grains and healthy fats.

Where Can I Get Protein in My Diet?

In general, the foods in the Milk & Alternatives and Meat & Alternatives groups in Canada’s Food Guide are the main sources of protein in our diet. Whole grains and vegetables also contain small amounts of protein. Most people should be able to meet their protein needs with a balanced diet, but if you struggle to meet your protein needs through food alone, a protein supplement or nutritional drink such as BOOST® High Protein may be helpful.

List of Common Food Sources of Protein
Food Serving size (based on Canada's Food Guide) Protein (g)
Beef 75 (21/2 OZ) 26
Chicken 75 (21/2 OZ) 23
Pork 75 (21/2 OZ) 22
Salmon 75 (21/2 OZ) 17
Cottage cheese
1/2 cup (125 mL) 15
BOOST High Protein 1 cup (237 mL) 15
Greek yogurt 3/4 cup (175 mL) 14
Legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas) 3/4 cup (175 mL) 11-13
Cheese (i.e. cheddar, mozzarella 50 g 1 1/2 oz) 12
Tofu 150 g (5 oz) 12
Eggs 2 large 12
Milk or soy milk 1 cup (250 mL) 8
Yogurt 3/4 cup (175 mL) 7
Peanut butter 2 Tbsp (30 mL) 7
Nuts/Seeds 1/4 cup (60 mL) 4-6


This article has been sponsored by BOOST, but all comments and opinions are my own.

Vincci Tsui
registered dietitian
Vincci Tsui is a Calgary-based registered dietitian with over seven years of experience working in a variety of health and wellness settings, from gyms and personal training studios to hospitals and clinics.
Vincci received her Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences from McGill University, and completed the school’s integrated dietetic internship program. She is a proud and active member of the College of Dietitians of Alberta and Dietitians of Canada.


[1] Cuenca-Sánchez et al. Controversies surrounding protein nutrition. Adv. Nutr. 6: 260–266, 2015.