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What is protein?

Protein is a type of macronutrient that is important for growth and development as well as acts as a source of energy for the body. Protein can be found in dried peas, soy and baked beans, peanut butter, nuts, eggs, cheese, lean meat, fish and whole-grains.

How much protein do I need in a day?

How much protein the average person needs in a day depends on a variety of factors. Generally, the recommended dietary allowance of protein is a minimum of 0.8 grams for every kilogram of body weight. To make the calculation by hand, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36 to convert it to kilograms, then multiply that by 0.8. You can also use a handy online calculator. This typically averages about 10% of a person’s daily caloric intake. 

However, the majority of North Americans eat 16% of their caloric intake in the form of protein. It’s thought that generally, healthy protein consumption should make up anywhere from 15-25% of your daily caloric intake.

Protein consumption should increase and decrease depending on the amount of activity you do on a daily basis, as well as other factors like pregnancy or injury recovery. Older adults also need more protein, to help prevent diseases like osteoporosis and sarcopenia. 

What are the healthiest high-protein foods?

Many people consider red meat one of the best sources of protein, but did you know there are tons of other high-protein foods out there? Some of our favorites include:

  •   Coldwater fish like salmon, tuna, and herring
  •   Dairy products like cheese, milk, and yogurt
  •   Beans and legumes
  •   Eggs
  •   Tofu
  •   Turkey
  •   Chicken
  •   Leafy greens like spinach or kale
  •   Nuts  

To ensure you’re getting the benefits of protein without unhealthy fats or unnecessary calories, choose lean proteins if you’re eating meat, and skip items that are breaded, fried, or covered in sauce.  

What is whey protein?

Many people who exercise frequently use whey protein to help promote muscle growth and recovery. Whey is a by-product of cheesemaking that has been dehydrated and used as a dietary supplement in recent years. 

Unlike other supplements, whey contains many other nutrients, making it a great choice to add to any healthy exercise routine. There are several different types of whey protein, but most contain between 18-23 grams of protein per 100 calorie serving.

Whey protein is usually available in large tubs and is typically flavored with vanilla, chocolate, or fruit flavors to cover the raw whey taste. You can mix it into water and drink it straight, or add it to a smoothie.  

What causes protein in urine?

When your kidneys aren’t working correctly, they let protein and other nutrients pass through your body and into your urine instead of directing it to organs or other areas where it’s required. 

Having protein in your urine (proteinuria) is often an early sign of kidney disease, or another metabolic issue like diabetes. In the early stages, most people can’t tell that they have protein in their urine unless they see a doctor for a urinalysis.

If the condition is left unchecked, you may notice that your urine is bubbly or frothy, and you may feel swelling in your extremities and abdomen. Both of these symptoms are signs that you should seek urgent care.

Learn more about Protein:

Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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