How Much Protein is in Food?

protein-IQI came across this infographic from Women’s Health magazine titled “What’s Your Protein IQ.” I must say, it’s a pretty awesome infographic. It displays the amount of protein in 1 serving of any given “protein-type” food. The main gist is that this infographic is insinuating that Eggs are not a high protein food. I can agree with that, one measly egg is only going to provide 5-7 grams of protein depending upon the size of the egg and if you eat the yolk or not. But as an RD [and a protein advocate] I’d never suggest someone eat only 1 egg as their protein source for any given meal. What this infographic failed to take into account is the portion size of each food listed. Sure they listed the portion sizes, but none of them are comparable as 1 ounce of nuts is a much smaller portion than 1 egg or 3 ounces of chicken breast for that matter.

So let’s compare apples to apples here instead of apples to strawberries. One serving of egg whites for an average fitness minded female is ~4 [not 1]. And four (4) egg whites, yes four, has about 20-24 grams of protein depending upon the size of the eggs you choose, the perfect protein portion per meal for women. According to WH’s infographic, 3 ounces of chicken breast (a good serving size for a female) has about 26 grams of protein. Now they are comparable. Both of these options are indeed a lean protein source.

This brings me to the other end of the spectrum. High fat and high carb foods claiming to be “protein foods” due to the fact that they contain a decent amount of protein per serving. Let’s look at Almonds - one (1) ounce of almonds IS one serving. Ramp this up to 3 ounces and you are tripling the serving just to accommodate for your desire to eat more protein for that particular meal. Why not just eat an actual hearty protein food like eggs, fish, turkey, chicken, red meat, tofu, Greek yogurt/cottage cheese, or protein powder - you’d save yourself a ton of excess calories. Back to the almonds, one ounce contains only 6.02 grams of protein. This is nowhere near the desired 20-25 grams of protein per meal. So no, this is not a good protein source. However, it is a good healthy fat source and should most definitely be included in your diet in the proper portion size.

Is this making any sense?

On to Quinoa [keen-wah], the amazing and popular superfood making its way into your kitchen cabinet. Quinoa is awesome. It’s got loads of fiber, whole grains, antioxidants and other nutrients, and (drum roll) protein. Is it a great accompaniment to any hearty protein source? Yes, absolutely. But is it a full protein source on it’s own? No. Your body needs more. Even vegans and vegetarians need more. Everybody needs more.

Is WH infographic wrong? I don’t think so. But a better comparison would be to put the portion sizes in perspective. Then again, that may be too much to convey on a educational image.

My advice: eat more protein. Want to know what’s wrong with your diet? Why aren’t you losing weight? How come you can’t build more muscle or get stronger? You’re not eating enough!

How much protein do you think is right for your body at each meal? What are your favorite protein sources? And how do you know when you’re not getting enough? I’d love to know what you think!

[Note:  I do love this infographic and feel that Women’s Health did an awesome job! It is a tool I will use to help teach my patients where protein comes from and how they can eat more of it.]

Note: all original posts from April 2013 through March 2014 were accidentally deleted. This is a repost.