Adequate protein intake is one way to help prevent—or treat—sarcopenia, the substantial decline in muscle mass and strength that can accompany aging. And it's easy to get more than enough protein from food (no special protein supplements needed). Here's how to tally up your daily intake:
Cooked beans have 7 grams per half cup; a slice of bread or half cup of pasta, 3 grams. Grain products are often overlooked as protein sources—yet they supply nearly one-fifth of our total protein intake because we tend to eat so much of them.
Even vegetables contain protein, albeit smaller amounts (a half cup of broccoli or asparagus has 2 grams).
It isn't hard to have a moderately high protein intake. Four ounces of lean meat or fish, 1 cup of beans, 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of pasta and 1 cup of yogurt supply about 75 grams of protein. If you consume 2,000 calories a day, the protein intake from just those five foods would account for 15 percent of your daily calories.
Add in smaller amounts of protein in the other foods you're eating, and more than 20 percent of your daily calories will be coming from protein. This is more than your body needs, since the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is just 46 grams a day for women and 56 grams for men.
If you want to find out how much protein (and other nutrients) you are consuming, you can use the Food Tracker program, developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). You can also consult a registered dietitian to work out an appropriate eating plan.
Originally published January 2012. Updated January 2014.