Please wait, the site is loading...

Health

How much protein should you really be eating?

by Helen Foster
How much protein should you really be eating?
Image: Ant Duncan

How much protein do you really need? Possibly a lot less than you think. Helen Foster reveals everything you need to know...

What does protein do in the body?

‘When you eat proteins, they break down into amino acids that help the body grow and repair. Our muscles, skin and hair are all made from the protein we eat,’ explains Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation.

How much protein do we need?

Most adults need around 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight, per day. For the average woman, this means around 45g of protein a day; for men it’s around 55g. That translates to roughly two palm-size portions of meat, fish, nuts or tofu. However, on average in the UK, we eat almost double that amount.

Why might too much protein be harmful?

According to a 2015 study from the University of South California, eating a high-protein, carnivorous diet – where protein makes up more than 20 per cent of calories – is linked to an increased risk of death from cancer or diabetes, and a shorter lifespan. Why? The most obvious reason is that animal-based sources of protein can be high in saturated fat, along with other substances that are linked to heart disease and some types of cancer. Australian researchers have also shown that consuming a lot of protein speeds up the process our body uses to make new cells – and as it gets faster it can make mistakes that may negatively affect health in the long term.

What about older people?

If you’re over 65, however, low-protein plans may not be better, as we need higher amounts of protein to help us build muscle as we age. ‘Over-65s should increase intake to 1.2g per kilo of body weight a day,’ says Dr Elizabeth Williams from the University of Sheffield Healthy Lifespan Institute.

What sort of protein should we be eating?

Don’t just think about meat. You also find protein in eggs, dairy, fish, beans, lentils, pulses, tofu, quinoa, bread and even some vegetables. ‘Eat more peas, beans and lentils, two portions of fish a week, and no more than 70g of red and processed meat per day,’ says Victoria Taylor. When you do choose plant-based proteins, vary these to ensure you get all the amino acids you need. You’ll find a list of how much protein is in some common foods here. Lastly, spread your intake throughout your day. ‘Pick milk or yogurt at breakfast; an egg, some baked beans or tinned fish at lunch; and lean meat, fish or vegetarian protein such as beans or tofu in the evening,’ says Victoria.

Don`t miss

We value your privacy

We use cookies to help give you the best experience on our site and to allow us and third parties to customise the marketing content you see across websites and social media. For more information see our cookie policy.

Cookie Preference Centre

Learn more about what each cookie category does and choose your settings (toggle right to opt in or left to opt out). Cookie policy


Strictly Necessary

These technologies are needed to enable our websites and apps to run and to keep it secure.

Sainsbury's Magazine

These technologies tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Cookie name Duration
PHPSESSID Until the browsing session ends
device_view 1 month
recentlyViewedRecipes 1 year
subscription-{popup-version-date}-PopupClosed 12 days

Vimeo

Enables Vimeo videos on the site

Cookie name Duration
_derived_epik 1 year

Constant Commerce

Enables shopping tools for recipe ingredients

Cookie name Duration
cc_a_h 10 years
cc_a_s Until the browsing session ends

DoubleClick

DoubleClick Digital Marketing (DDM) is an integrated ad-technology platform that enables us to more effectively create, manage and grow high-impact digital marketing campaigns.

Cookie name Duration
DSID 10 days
IDE 1 year
RUL 11 months

Performance/Analytics

These technologies tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Google

Google Analytics tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Cookie name Duration
__gads 13 months
_ga 28 months
_gat 1 minute
_gid 1 day
1P_JAR 1 month
ANID 10 days
CONSENT 18 years
NID 6 months
__Secure-3PAPISID 2 years
__Secure-3PSID 2 years
__Secure-3PSIDCC 1 year

Marketing/Targeting

These technologies help us decide which products, services and offers may be relevant for you. We use this data to customise the marketing content you see on websites, apps and social media. They also help us understand the performance of our marketing activities. These cookies are set by us or our carefully-selected third parties.

Pinterest

Pinterest conversion tracking gathers conversion insights and builds audiences to target based on actions our visitors have taken on the site.

Cookie name Duration
_pinterest_ct_rt 1 year
_pinterest_ct_ua 1 year
_pin_unauth 1 year

Outbrain

These technologies tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Cookie name Duration
outbrain_cid_fetch 5 minutes
adrl 5 weeks
apnxs 6 weeks
criteo 2 months
obuid 6 months

Twitter

Twitter conversion tracking enables us to measure our return on ad spend by tracking the actions people take after viewing or engaging with our ads on Twitter.

Cookie name Duration
personalization_id 2 years
muc 2 years
ads_prefs 5 years
auth_token 5 years
dnt 5 years
guest_id 2 years
twid 5 years