Newsflash: Protein malnutrition is closer to home than you could imagine, particularly in seniors with dwindling food intake who may not eat enough protein-rich foods.
Protein is made up of amino acids — the building blocks for muscle, enzymes, and cell structure inside the body. But here is the catch: The body does not store extra amino acids and cannot produce several so-called essential amino acids. So what’s a protein-starved body to do? You must eat enough protein and the right types everyday to keep adequate supplies flowing. If that is not possible then protein supplements can be a valuable option.
Without enough protein intake the body swipes needed building blocks from muscles. Each decade over age 50, in fact, you can lose another 10% of your muscle mass. This weakens the body and could affect strength, balance and daily function. The infection-fighting immune system and oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in red blood cells also depend on protein. Clearly you cannot short-change protein intake for your body.
How Much Protein is Enough?
Adults age 19 to 59 years old: Daily need is about 8 grams protein for each 20 pounds body weight
Older adults over 60: Daily need is about 10 to 13 grams protein for every 20 pounds of body weight.
For example, a 120 pound woman who is 72 years old would need between 10 and 13 grams of protein for each 20 pounds body weight. 20 x 6 = 120 lbs. So she would 60 to 78 grams of protein to meet her daily requirements (6 x 10 = 60, 6 x 13 = 78).
Just choose several items from the chart below and add them up to reach your daily protein requirement – and you are well on your way to maintaining your independence as you age.
Where to Find Protein:
|SOURCE||Amount to Eat||Grams (gm) Protein|
|1% Lowfat Cottage Cheese||1 cup||28 gm|
|Turkey||3 Ounces||25 gm|
|Halibut or Salmon||½ Fillet (5.5 ounces)||40 gm|
|Tuna Salad||1 cup||33 gm|
|Edamame (frozen green soybeans, cooked)||1 cup||17 gm|
|Sardines, canned, drained||3.5 ounces (1 can)||23 gm|
|Beans (Pinto, Kidney, Lima, Garbanzo, Black, Navy, Baked)||1 cup||15 gm|
|Herring, pickled||3 ounces||12 gm|
|Ground Beef||3 ounces||20 gm|
|Yogurt||8 ounces||10 to 12 gm|
|Milk, Plain or Soy||8 ounces||8 gm|
|Peanuts||1 ounce||8 gm|
|Spinach, cooked||1 cup||7 gm|
|Peas, green||1 cup||7 gm|
|Bagel||One 3.5 inch diameter||7 gm|
|Egg, Hard boiled||1 large||6 gm|
|Quinoa (grain), cooked||1 cup||8 gm|
|Oatmeal, boiled||1 cup||6 gm|
|Bread, whole wheat||1 slice||3.5 gm|
|Peanut Butter||2 Tablespoons||8 gm|
|Almonds||¼ cup||7.5 gm|
|Cashews||¼ cup||5 gm|
|Pistachios||¼ cup||6 gm|
|Walnuts||¼ cup||4.5 gm|
- Chernoff, R: Protein and Older Adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 23, No. 90006, 627S-630S (2004)
- Castaneda C, Charnley JM, Evans WJ, Crim MC: Elderly women accommodate to a low-protein diet with losses of body cell mass, muscle function, and immune response. Am J Clin Nutr 62 :30 –39,1995.
- Kurpad AV, Vaz M: Protein and amino acid requirements in the elderly. Eur J Clin Nutr54(Suppl) 3 :S131 –S142,2000.
- Wija, A et al: Dairy Products as Essential Contributors of (Micro-) Nutrients in Reference Food Patterns: An Outline for Elderly People. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 27, No. 6, 747S-754S (2008).
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/SR20/nutrlist/sr20a203.pdf