Why is it important to include high protein foods in your diet?
No matter your age or fitness goals, there are many reasons your body needs protein to be healthy and strong – from muscles to hair to healthy bones and teeth.
The latest research suggests that it’s not just about how much protein you need, but it’s also about when you get your protein. Read on to find out more about this important nutrient and how you can find good sources of protein for breakfast to help get the protein you need.
Along with carbohydrates and fats, protein is one of the three macronutrients, or nutrients that provide energy (or calories) in your diet. Protein long has been recognized as the foundation for the body. In fact, the word protein comes from the Greek word protos, which means first. Scientists now have discovered more than 30,000 proteins in our bodies. Each of these unique proteins is made up of a set of building blocks called amino acids, which food sources of protein provide. Nine amino acids are considered essential because your body can’t make the unique proteins it needs to survive without them. High quality proteins – like those from milk, meat or fish – contain all nine of these essential amino acids.
Protein is the nutrient of the decade and its profile continues to rise. It’s a nutrient that more people want to get more of every day and often make sure to meet their daily protein requirements. That’s because protein is a valuable multitasker and does many important things in our bodies. In fact, protein is part of every cell in your body.
Getting enough protein, especially as part of a healthy breakfast, can help with:
It’s important to keep in mind the type, amount and timing of your protein.
While all foods with protein can help contribute to meeting your daily protein needs, it’s important to look at the amount of protein in each serving. Not all foods with protein on their own are good sources of protein. Check out these morning food choices and how much protein they contribute (or don’t contribute) to your diet. It’s also important to look at the quality of the protein you get. Keep reading to learn more.
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27.
When it comes to meeting your daily protein requirements, not all foods are created equal.
In addition to considering the amount of protein in your food, there are several other factors to consider when it comes choosing the right protein food:
When it comes to protein content, milk hits it out of the park. But milk is more than a good source of protein. It also offers eight other essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium — nutrients that most Americans – including children – are missing in their diet.
How much protein is in milk? You’ll find two types of protein in milk: whey (20 percent) and casein (80 percent). Both are considered high-quality proteins because they contain all essential amino acids in sufficient amounts to qualify milk as a good source of protein.
Milk is also a complete protein, which means that every glass contains a full mix of the essential amino acids our bodies need. Most plant-based protein sources are not considered complete proteins and other foods like protein bars often try to compensate for their lack of natural protein by adding in soy protein isolate or other processed forms of protein alongside added ingredients, like sugar.
Plus, a recent study suggests a diet rich in milk protein is associated with better bone strength (higher bone mineral density) compared to some other patterns high in popular protein sources, like red meat.1
Milk is a wholesome, affordable and versatile source of protein that can be enjoyed in a glass, cup or bowl. You can also find it in many forms – from fat free to whole to organic. And where else can you get 8 grams of protein, along with 8 other essential nutrients, for only 80 calories – all for around a quarter a glass? Nowhere, except in fat free milk.
Milk is also a great post-workout beverage. In fact, lowfat chocolate milk has the right protein to carb ratio scientifically shown to help you recover after a tough workout.
When considering your daily protein intake, there’s good reason to add milk at meals. There are 8 grams of protein in a glass of milk — that’s a gram of high-quality protein in every ounce. Each serving of milk has more protein than the 6 grams found in a large egg. When compared to almond milk, which only has 1 gram — a glass of dairy milk has eight times as much protein. Plus, there’s even new research underway that suggests milk could be the gold standard for protein, according to the World Health Organization.
Take a look at how the protein in milk compares to other foods.
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27. Additional nutrients signify food provides 10% or greater of the Daily Value of labeled nutrients.
†IRI Sales Data (milk, soymilk, almond milk), USDA Retail Prices (eggs), Average Online Grocery Prices (peanut butter). USDA Retail Prices based on available online data, may not be nationally representative.
Click/tap to learn more
The quality of a protein is evaluated based on the mix of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and how easily it can be digested and absorbed. To be considered “complete,” a protein must contain all nine essential amino acids.
It’s also good to look at the company your protein keeps. What other important nutrients are you getting along with protein? Check your ingredient labels to know what you are getting.
Cost can be a barrier with many protein foods. Look for affordable, high-quality protein sources, like milk, that give you the most protein (and other nutrients) for your dollar.
How does your protein choice fit into your meal and your daily protein intake? No matter the meal or how you choose to eat it, your protein choices should help round out your meals or snacks.
Protein requirements can be determined in a variety of ways. The original recommendations were based on the minimum amount you would need to prevent deficiency. In other words, the lowest amount you can survive on.
Today, many experts suggest those recommendations may leave us missing out on potential health benefits that protein has to offer. Newer research suggests we should aim for more protein in our diets to get the most benefit. The Institute of Medicine recommends a range of 10 to 35 percent of total daily calories should come from protein – which includes both the lowest level you need to survive (10%) and a more optimal level (20-35%). At the more optimal range, that number could be 100-175 grams of protein per day for a 2,000-calorie diet. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three servings of milk and milk products each day. So, if you drink three 8-ounce glasses of milk each day, you add 24 grams of high-quality protein to your daily protein intake.
While most people may meet the minimum protein requirements, studies continue to show benefits of a high-protein diet – especially for active people and older adults.
grams of protein (or a range of 00g-00g)
Based on a recommendation of 0,000 calories per day.
Based on USDA calories needs per day and high-end IOM protein recommendation range 20-35% of calories.
The most surprising protein fact is just how important timing your protein consumption is.
Many experts now recommend getting 25 to 30 grams of protein at each meal. This is especially important at breakfast, a meal that’s often heavier in carbs and lighter on protein. Most of us tend to stockpile protein in the evening, while averaging only about 13 grams of protein at breakfast. Many of us are getting enough total protein in our diets, but since our bodies can only use so much protein at a time, making the effort to spread your daily protein intake throughout the day can optimize how your body uses it.
Studies suggest that protein may have a meal-specific threshold of about 25 to 30 grams that you need to reach before it can really do its job.
Did you know most of us only get about 13 grams of protein at breakfast2 – a far cry from the recommended 25 to 30 grams per meal.
Getting a high-protein breakfast, or a combination of breakfast and a snack before noon, is a great way to keep you fuller longer. Morning meals with protein (totaling around 30 grams) may help people eat fewer calories over the rest of the day. Eating a protein-rich breakfast or including protein-rich foods before noon to get to 25 to 30 grams of protein is one of the best ways to energize your mornings so that you can focus on the things you want to accomplish.
Protein Intake Throughout the Day2,8
Recommended protein at each meal
“There is evidence that supports unique benefits with increased protein consumption at breakfast for improved satiety and reductions in unhealthy snacking in the evening.”
Heather Leidy, PhD, University of Missouri9
“To maintain healthy muscles and bones for adults, at least 30 grams of protein should be consumed at more than one meal each day.”
Don Layman, PhD, University of Illinois8
It’s as simple as pairing your favorite protein foods with milk. Fill up your cup with milk’s high-quality protein and pair with your breakfast or mid-morning snack. It’s an easy, delicious way to get the 25 to 30 grams of protein that many experts recommend before noon.
22 grams of proteinPlay video