Protein…optimising our intake as we age
Dietician Aveen Bannon examines the role of protein in healthy ageing.
Protein is an essential component our diets that we need throughout every stage of the lifecycle! There is a lot of focus on high protein diets but we really should be focusing on is optimal protein intakes! Protein provides us with energy and helps support growth, maintenance and development. Often proteins are described ‘as building blocks for life’ which basically means that our cells contain protein and protein helps build and repair our cells.
When we think of protein we often think of muscle but proteins are actually present in every cell in our bodies. About 43% of our protein is in the form of muscle…the remainder in our skin and blood. Protein rich foods include meat, eggs, dairy, tofu, nuts, seeds, beans & pulses. But how much protein do we actually need?
The adult recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is set at 0.8g of protein per kg bodyweight.
Or it is suggested that 15-20% of our calories should come from protein. Many consider this to be a conservative estimate of requirements especially as we age. As we get older particularly over the age of 55 we need more protein. Higher protein intakes, of up to 35% of daily calories maybe beneficial in older age groups. The reason for this increased requirement is due to the fact that we lose muscle as we age and the body struggles to repair it efficiently. However good dietary protein intake coupled with exercise can help maintain good muscle.
With this in mind it is thought that the current RDA of 0.8 g of protein/kg of body weight may be an adequate intake but 1-1.2g/kg body weight would be better. So if you have a 55kg woman she would need between 55- 66g of protein per day. To put this into perspective a 100g chicken breast or 140g fillets of fish will contain about 30g of protein, an egg might contain between 7-9g of protein and a 150g pot of glenisk strained Greek style yogurts contain between 12-15g of protein.
To maximise the absorption of protein it is suggested that protein intake should be evenly distributed throughout the day, which means it is a good idea to include some protein rich food at each meal. Breakfast is often the poorest meal for protein so make sure you include some milk, yogurt, eggs or nuts to boost your morning intake. Aim to have a ¼ of your meal at lunch and dinner to be filled with protein and include yogurt, nuts and seeds as snacks.