Veronica Tonay, Ph.D.




How much protein do you really need? There's been a debate about that raging for years. How much you need differs depending upon your sex, activity level, size, and age. If you are weight lifting (strength training), researchers at Tufts University found that you may consume up to 20% of your daily calories as protein. Otherwise, the National Research Council's recommended daily allowance of protein is only 10-12% of your daily calories whereas the World Health Organization's recommendation is 5%!

To be specific... Sources differ, but you should strive to take in 1/3 to 1/2 of a gram (.36g - .42 g) of protein for each pound of body weight (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine guidelines, respectively). If pregnant, allow 10g more per day; if breast-feeding, allow 15g more for 6 months, then 12g more until you stop. Children need more protein than adults (1g per pound of body weight until 1.5 years of age, then .5g per pound until age 7). Weight lifters should consume 3/4 to 4/5 of a gram per pound of body weight.

What happens if I consume more than that? Gout, kidney stones, and excess uric acid and urea. A Cornell nutritional biochemist, T. Colin Campbell, MD, attributes the increase in cancer, cardiovascular problems and other conditions to over-consumption of animal proteins. If you are going to consume more than the recommended guidelines above, you must do resistance exercise in order not to harm your body.

But I'm on the Atkins diet! Tufts University published the results of a study of those on the Atkins diet. For the first two weeks, they ate 19g of carbs daily and as much protein and fat as desired, then switched to his 'maintenance' program for a month. At the end of the 6 weeks, subjects' urine had become markedly acidic with a great increase in the amount of acid their kidneys were required to process, increasing the risk of kidney stones. They also excreted too much calcium, which contributes to bone density loss. This is a danger with the keto diet, too. Diets for weight loss generally do not work. Slow, long-term changes in what and how much we eat on a daily basis, do. A registered dietician can be an invaluable ally.

What if I exercise a lot? Edmund Burke, PhD, of the University of Colorado Exercise Science Program suggests that you consume 4x as much carbohydrates as protein (e.g., 56g carbs to 14g protein). Eat as soon after exercise as you can, and avoid fats at this time. For example, eat non-fat yogurt with fruit, or an ounce of water-packed tuna with carrots and whole grain bread. He suggests you plan another meal a few hours after exercise of approximately 60% carbs, 20% fat and 15% protein.

What happens if I don't get enough? Children need protein to grow into their natural height. The body needs protein to heal wounds, and build and maintain muscle. Without protein, your hair and nails won't grow. One of the signs of malnutrition (swelling abdomen) is a sign of lack of protein. We have more protein in our bodies than any other element, except for water. It helps in the production of growth hormones and cell preservation. It helps with metabolism, and with the acid-alkaline and water balance in the body. Antibodies are made from protein.

I'm a vegetarian. What are some good sources of protein for me? You're in good company! Our distant ancestors, the gorillas, are vegetarians. Whole-grain bread 2.0g; spelt sourdough bread 4g; medium-sized egg 6.2g; 2 oz. 1% cottage cheese 7.8g; 4 oz. acidophilis milk 3.0g; 2 oz. yogurt 3.2g; 4 oz. tofu 18.5g; 2 egg omelette with 1 yolk 13.3g; 1 tbsp peanut butter 4.0g; 8 oz minestrone soup 8.0g; black bean salad 11.0g; enchilada with cheese 8.0g; chili relleno 13.6g; pasta with tomato basil sauce 10.0g; spring roll with tempeh 10.0g; 4 oz. vegetables 7.0g. Eggs and dairy actually have more protein than flesh food.


Calcium is needed for many functions--not just to increase or maintain bone mass! It is necessary for blood clotting, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses (everything we do and think is the result of nerve impulses moving through the body), and is needed to make your muscles contract, your heart work, and to produce breast milk. Calcium cannot be taken alone and be absorbed by the body: Vitamin D is needed, so the two must be taken together. Sunlight combines with chemicals in your skin to form Vitamin D, and it is abundant in fortified milk. There are several non-dairy options high in calcium, as well. See your doctor for recommendations if you have a family history of osteoporosis.


0-6 months = 360 mg; 6-12 mos. = 540 mg; 1-10 yrs. = 800 mg; 11-12 yrs. = 1200 mg.; 13-18 yrs. = 1200 mg.


Females: 19+years (including pregnant or breastfeeding women): 1500 mg. Males: 800 mg.

Calcium content of various foods: Milk = 285 mg/cup; cheddar cheese = 213 mg/oz; cottage cheese = 211 mg/cup; plain yogurt = 280 mg/cup; ice cream = 260 mg/cup; tofu = 128 mg/3.5 oz.; brazil nuts = 127 mg/1/3 cup; almonds = 127 mg/1/3 cup; turnip greens cooked = 126 mg/1/2 cup; cooked broccoli = 136 mg/1 cup; sweet potatoes = 44 mg/small; kale = 74 mg/1/2 cup; molasses = 116 mg/1 tbsp.

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