Americans eat more meat per capita than any other country in the world. We buy high-protein products of all kinds: bars, cereals, and even drinks. Many of us eat animal protein at every meal, which also has implications for the environment. How much protein do we actually need for a healthy diet?

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is about 46 grams per day for a woman, and about 56 grams per day for a man. Are we meeting that mark?

Actually, we’re far exceeding it.

Christopher Gardner, PhD, and Jennifer Hartle, DrPh, MHS write for Civil Eats. Arlin Wasserman (@arlinwasserman) also contributed to the commentary.


In actuality, the average American clocks in at around 100 grams of protein per day, or around twice the RDA. Around 80 percent of this protein comes from animal sources. For example, three eggs for breakfast (20 grams), a turkey sub for lunch (20 grams), and a small (5-oz) portion of steak for dinner (50 grams) would provide 90 grams of protein. Factor in the other foods most people eat in a day and you’re at more than 100 grams, just like that.

Gardner and Hartle nicely summarize the environmental impacts of so much protein consumption. And then they delve into the health impacts.


What a lot of people need to know is that you can easily get enough protein from plants, as most vegans do. We also have the choice to choose less meat, and meat from pasture-based, sustainable producers. But it’s also time to think systemically, and address our collective protein obsession by updating our nation’s dietary guidelines. And we’re far from alone in this belief.

Given the recommendations being considered for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, this is a helpful and timely piece. Highly recommended reading.

You can make your voice heard. The DGAC recommendations are open to public comment until May 8.


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