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Protein - The Nutrient of the Decade

Benefits of having a high protein diet.

Nashville, Ark. - It seems almost daily there is something new and exciting to announce about the benefits of a high protein diet. While we think of protein for athletes and those who exercise a lot, protein actually has a lot of health benefits for everyone including weight loss, satiety (makes you feel full longer), healthy aging, and even diabetes management.

            Protein is an essential nutrient along with fat and carbohydrate, which our bodies need every day. Protein is part of every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies. Protein is made up of amino acids; which are sometimes called the building blocks of protein. We need amino acids from the protein we eat in order to build and maintain bones, muscles, and skin. There are 20 amino acids which make up protein. Nine of these are considered essential.

            If we do not get enough protein in our diet, we can become protein deficient which can lead to problems with hormones and antibodies. In addition, because the body doesn’t have a way to store protein as it does fat and carbohydrate, we need to consume adequate amounts of protein each day.

            Protein is found in meats, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds. Protein is also found in milk and milk products, grains (to some degree) and even vegetables. However, the major amounts of protein come from animal sources.

            For most, getting enough protein is not a problem.  Most Americans, eat meat! Strict vegetarians (vegans) who do not eat meat or dairy products may have a hard time consuming enough protein and may need to eat more calories to get the recommended amount of protein needed.

            The average person needs to consume approximately 45 grams a day for people weighing around 125 pounds. People weighing around 190 pounds need about 70 grams of protein per day. Good sources of protein include lean beef, poultry, or pork, seafood and fish, Greek style yogurt, dried beans and lentils, milk, quinoa, cheese, and eggs.

            Here are some tips for making sure you are getting enough protein in your diet:

  • Start your day off with a healthy breakfast. Add peanut butter to toast and have a cup of Greek yogurt.
  • Make sure every meal contains some protein. This will help you feel full longer and reduce “swings” in blood sugar.
  • Focus on high quality protein sources.
  • Protein sources can sometimes be costly. Consider lowering food cost by using dry beans to the diet. Other low cost protein sources include eggs, tofu, and fish.
  • Experiment with new protein sources including quinoa.

            Finally, make sure you spread your protein intake throughout the day. While most of us eat a good protein source at dinner, add protein to breakfast and lunch.

            For more information on understanding protein or for specific questions regarding nutrition, contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

Recipe of the Week

            Here is a recipe from the Mediterranean Diet Cooking School that is always a hit. Many people has never used quinoa, but are surprised by how tasty it is!

  • 1 cup quinoa

  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 cup chopped onion

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • Pinch of sea salt

  • 1 cup vegetable broth

  • 1 cup fat free milk

  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup sprinkled on top)

  1. Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

  2. Add onion and cook until soft, stirring constantly.

  3. Add garlic and quinoa and continue stirring a minute or two.

  4. Stir in broth and milk.

  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until quinoa is tender, stirring occasionally, approximately 14-15 minutes.

  6. Add mushrooms and cook another 5-6 minutes, stirring often.

  7. Remove from heat. Add cheese and sea salt and let stand a few minutes, so risotto can thicken.

    Yield: 6 servings

  1. Nutrition Information per Serving: 210 calories, 8 grams fat, 24 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 11 grams protein


By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.