Q. How much protein should I aim to eat?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Saturday, 20 June 2009.
Tagged: healthy eating, overweight, protein, standard serves, weight loss

Q. How much protein should I aim to eat?
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Q. With all the hype about Paleo, Dr Atkins, Dukan and high-protein diets, how much protein should I aim to eat?

A. For the average woman, around 50 grams a day is around the minimum you'd need and is what's called the Recommended Dietary Intake or RDI. This is the amount you would find in an average steak (like the one pictured which is 125 grams or 4 oz raw weight) plus a 200ml/8oz glass of milk. 

For an upper intake, you can work on 1 gram of protein per kilogram of your body weight. So for a woman who weighs 80 kg, she would need to take in some 80 grams of protein a day and have a comfortable protein intake.

Protein is needed to maintain muscles and make the enzymes and hormones our bodies need. There's also research showing that a higher protein intake is more satiating (satisfying) which helps keep you fuller for longer on a weight loss diet.

In affluent countries, most of us consume more protein than is recommended - average protein intakes are around 75 g for women and 100 g for men.

High-protein low-carbohydrate diets with unlimited eggs, meat, fish and seafood can go as high as 300 g or 400 g a day which researchers believe may put too much of a load on the kidneys.

Body builders too have a high intake thanks to the protein shakes and protein powders they love to consume. For the average person, the bottom line is it's fine to increase your protein intake moderately if you like meat, fish and eggs OR you're looking for weight loss, but there's no need to overdo it.

Top 10 foods for protein

Meat sources

Food & serve size Protein in grams
Beef fillet steak, cooked, 150 g 40
King prawns, 10 cooked, 160 g 38
Chicken, 1/2 breast, cooked, 150 g 34
Fish fillet, cooked, 120 g 32
Tuna/salmon, canned, drained, 100 g can                                25
Veal schnitzel, fried, 150 g 23
Pork, baked leg, 2 slices 23
Hamburger, plain including bun 18
Lamb loin chops, 2 medium, cooked, 145 g 17 

Non-meat sources

Food & serve size Protein in grams
Eggs, 2 medium, whole, poached or boiled 12
Milk, 250 mL glass, low-fat & full 9
Yoghurt, 1 individual tub, fruit & natural, low-fat & full-fat 9
Cheese, cheddar, 1 slice, 30 g 8
Tofu, ½ cup, firm and soft 7
Chick Peas, ½ cup, canned, drained 6
Lentils, ½ cup, dried, boiled