Protein aids in keeping muscles strong, which allows individuals to continue living independently and doing the activities they enjoy. Did you know eating adequate amounts of protein daily is important for other reasons?
Why your body needs protein
The body needs protein to:
- Maintain a healthy immune system to ward off illnesses
- Keep bones strong
- Ensure blood and skin cells are continuously replaced as needed
Unfortunately, older adults frequently encounter many issues that can make it challenging to eat an adequate amount of protein. Swallowing difficulty, dental issues, changes in taste, and reduced appetite make it challenging for adults to consume enough protein. And it’s a double whammy when the body is stressed, such as after surgery or when faced with an acute illness like the flu or pneumonia because the amount of protein needed is greater than usual.
How much protein is enough?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight. Recent research suggests that adults age 65-plus may have higher needs than originally thought. An easy rule of thumb is to divide your weight in half and aim to consume at least that number of grams of protein each day.
Example: A 70-year old female weighing 140 pounds would need 70 grams of protein daily. (140 pounds/2 = 70 grams of protein)
Keep in mind that this protein intake recommendation is not advised for individuals affected by kidney disease. Follow the eating plan advised by your kidney care providers.
Spread your protein out
Not only is it important to eat enough protein each day, but the timing of your protein intake is important also. Older adults who spread their protein intake out between meals and snacks can better maintain muscular strength than those who eat most of their protein at one meal.
Registered dietitians recommend eating 25-30 grams of protein at each meal and selecting snacks with 10-25 grams of protein until you have met your recommended protein intake for the day.
Good sources of protein
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The body can manufacture many of the amino acids it needs; however, nine of them are considered “essential” because the body cannot make these and must be sourced from the food we eat.
There are two types of protein: animal and plant. Animal protein is complete and provides all of the essential amino acids required by the body. Beef, pork, poultry, fish, and dairy items are examples of foods that are rich in animal protein.
Plant proteins are found in nuts, seeds, dried beans, and legumes. While plant protein does not offer all of the essential amino acids, eating a variety of plant proteins can ensure you are covering your bases when it comes to consuming all of the essential amino acids.
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- “Protein for Fitness: Age Demands Greater Protein Needs” https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/040715p16.shtml
- Protein Requirements and Recommendations for Older Adults: A Review https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/8/5311