The Power of Protein

The Power of Protein

Publish Date October 5, 2022 4 Minute Read
Author Ensure

We all have a general awareness of protein’s importance to our overall health.1,2 But what exactly does it do? Here are 4 ways protein supports your body:

  • Builds muscle to give you strength and mobility.
  • Repairs tissue to heal wounds and help keep skin and organs healthy.
  • Builds hormones and enzymes to regulate body processes and chemical reactions.
  • Makes antibodies to help fight infections and diseases.

What is Protein?

Protein is an important macronutrient that’s part of every cell, tissue and organ. Proteins are made up of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. The body needs 20 different amino acids, 9 of which are considered essential because they’re not produced by the body (instead, you get them from food).

Because the body constantly breaks down and replaces protein (and doesn’t store any amino acids for future use), you need a daily supply of amino acids from the foods you eat to keep making new proteins.

What Foods Provide Protein?

There are various protein-rich foods from both animal and plant sources. Animal protein sources, which typically provide high-quality protein, include eggs, milk, meat, poultry and fish. Plant protein sources include soy, tofu, tempeh, legumes and nuts.

How Else Can Protein Improve Health?

If you’re working on losing weight, lowering your blood pressure or improving heart health, getting more protein can help. Studies have shown that consuming more protein can help you feel full and manage weight.3 Other research suggests that increasing protein in your diet may have a positive impact on blood pressure.4,5 Consuming protein from plant sources, rather than red meat, has also been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease.6

What Are the Protein Needs of Older Adults?

More than 40% of adults over age 50 don’t consume the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein from food alone.7 Plus, research suggests that the RDA for protein may not be adequate for aging adults. The current RDA is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, but experts now estimate that older adults need at least 1.1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.6 The current RDA is based on research in young adults and doesn’t promote ideal health or protect older adults from sarcopenia (loss of muscle and function with aging).

Researchers also advise that an adequate amount of protein intake with each meal – 25 to 30 grams of high-quality protein – is important to help build protein and necessary for optimal muscle protein synthesis.8 Protein intakes at this level are particularly beneficial for older adults as a strategy to maintain muscle mass.


1. US Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 dietary guidelines for Americans. 8th ed. Published December 2015. Accessed May 17, 2018.
2. Deutz NE, et al. Clin Nutr. 2014;33(6):929- 936.
3. Leidy HJ, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;101(6):1320S-1329S.
4. Teunissen-Beekman KF et al. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2013; 24(1):65-70.
5. Buendia JR, et al. Am J Hypertens. 2015;28(3):372-379.
6. Guasch-Ferré, M et al. Circulation. 2019;139(15):1828-1845.
7. Krok-Schoen J, et al. Low dietary protein intakes and associated eating behaviors in an aging population: a NHANES analysis. Abstract presented at: Clinical Nutrition Week; January 22-25, 2018; Las Vegas, NV.
8. Mamerow M, et al. J Nutr. 2014;144(6):876-880.