Most women don't realize how much protein they need for optimal health, or how to include the best protein for women in their diet. The amount of protein women need is less than the amount of protein men need, and varies by age, weight, activity level and other factors.
On average, adult women require approximately 46 grams of protein every day. Pregnant and lactating women need even more protein: up to 71 grams every day. It is recommended by the USDA that between 17 and 21 percent of women's total calories should be from protein.
Your body needs protein for many reasons--from developing bones and muscles to healthy cell activity.
Healthy Sources of Protein for Women
Protein comes from many sources, and some are healthier than others. Foods that are high in protein and low in saturated fat include:
- lean meat
- dairy products
- whole grains
- soy products
Healthiest Sources of Protein for Women
Research has proven that proteins from beans, whole grains and soy products are healthier than proteins from animals because they are not as high in saturated fats or cholesterol as most meat.
For women who don't eat enough protein in their diets, protein drinks such as protein shakes, whey protein and protein supplements are recommended.
When choosing protein drinks, women's drinks should contain less protein per serving than protein drinks for men contain. Protein drinks for women should also include higher levels of vitamin B6, folic acid and iron than protein drinks for men.
Benefits of Whey Protein for Women
Whey protein contains the most protein of all natural foods, and is very healthy for women who need more protein in their diet. Whey also includes calcium, which is also beneficial for women. Because whey protein contains very little fat, lactose or cholesterol, it is an excellent source of protein for people who are on low-carbohydrate diets.
Whey protein is the best source of protein for decreasing hunger. It is also known for increasing the fat-burning effects of exercise. Women who are trying to lose weight can drink one to three servings of whey protein per day to help them increase their energy and decrease their appetite.
Protein for Losing Fat and Toning Up
Because bodybuilders have used protein drinks and supplements to help them build muscle, many people think that protein drinks and supplements will cause them to "bulk up."
When used appropriately and in moderation, protein drinks and supplements can, instead, help women lose body fat and tone up muscles so they can become leaner and stronger, without excess bulk.
Overall, a variety of proteins should be included in your diet. It is most beneficial to include a small portion of protein with every meal for long-lasting energy and healthy weight maintenance.