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April 01, 2015

The Latest in Protein Recommendations for Older Adults

Scientists and doctors have known that eating protein-rich foods causes the body to build more protein. So, it isn’t surprising that, if you eat less protein as you age, your body can become less efficient at creating the protein needed for muscle formation. Healthy muscle mass is necessary to maintain a healthier weight, overall fitness and quality of life.

So, what is known about protein intake for older adults? Recently, Kendal at Home looked into the issue and discovered that the American Journal of Physiology—Endocrinology and Metabolism reported on the newest protein recommendations for older adults.

First, here’s a high-level look at what previous research has shown: 

  • Overall Protein intake recommendations for adults is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.

  • This equals about 62 grams of protein for a person weighing 170 pounds.

Researchers at the Center for Translational Research in Aging and Longevity measured whether or not increasing protein intake by older adults resulted in a greater net protein gain and if the timing of intake makes a difference.

Result: “While the distribution of protein across meals [timing] did not make a significant difference, total amount of protein consumed did.”

Bottom line: Increased intake of quality protein sources is beneficial for older adults; in the study, the participants who ate increased amounts of protein ingested 1.5 grams per day per kilogram of body weight.

How to Increase Protein Intake in a Healthy Way

We looked at HelpGuide.org, the website of a non-profit agency overseen by a board of doctors, for help in choosing protein sources. Tips include:

  • Do not rely on red meat, processed meat and/or whole milk dairy products to boost your protein intake, these foods are also high in saturated fat.

  • Choose fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies and herring.

  • Skinless chicken and turkey are also good choices.

  • Add beans and peas to salads, soups and stews.

  • Add nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews, flaxseed, and sesame and sunflower seeds, to salads – and also use them as snacks.

  • Choose fat-free cheese, skim milk and Greek yogurt to “pack a lean protein punch.”

  • Celebrate meatless Mondays with tofu and soy products.

To find out how much protein is contained in specific foods, see this chart. For example:

  • Three egg whites for breakfast contain 11 grams of protein; scramble them with non-fat mozzarella (32 grams per 3.5 ounces) for a powerful start to your day.

  • A sandwich with 3.5 ounces of skinned turkey contains 31 grams of protein.

  • A quarter cup of peanuts has 7 grams of protein, perfect for a mid-afternoon snack.

If you find that you struggle to get enough protein from your diet, talk to your doctor and ask if protein supplements (shakes, bars and the like) make sense for you.  

For more information on maintaining a healthy balanced diet, download this free nutritional guide.




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