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Do Americans Really Need All This Protein?

Do Americans Really Need All This Protein?

Look out fiber, protein is the new hot food fortification. From nutrition bars to breakfast cereal — and even ice cream! — food manufacturers are pushing protein content to encourage you to buy their goods. The underlying assumptions here are that you need more protein and that more is good you.

But do we really need more protein in our diets? Unless you are an elite athlete, chances are you’re getting more than enough.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, on average, men are already consuming 102 grams of protein per day and women are consuming 70 grams of protein per day — almost twice the required amount.

To put that number in context, see the chart below. 

recommended protein intake

Because protein deficiency is not an issue for Americans, there is no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein on nutrition labels, only protein content. 

What nutrients should I focus on?

Those same studies show that most Americans need to eat more grains, vegetables and fruits. The nutrients found in these food groups are the same nutrients associated with reducing the risk of chronic disease.[I]

The graph below shows the disparities between recommended nutrient consumption and average intakes.

typical american diets

Adding more plants to your diet every day can have a dramatic effect, and is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health. Food matters.

Reference: [1] U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010.

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