Did you know that our body is literally made of protein?
Yup, quite all of it! From our bones to our muscles, arteries, veins, skin, hair and nails! Our internal organs are also built by tissues made of protein! I mean, can you imagine other nutrients in our body bumping into protein wherever they go? ?
Kidding aside, protein is truly an essential nutrient to support our body systems and overall health in midlife. Because of its benefits, protein is called the “building block of life”. But how much of such a vital nutrient do we need in menopause?
Well, let’s talk about that further down! In this article, we will also cover the health benefits of protein, the symptoms of protein deficiency and the best natural protein sources to go for. Let’s get started! ?
Protein: Its Powerful Benefits for Menopausal Women
Protein plays many roles in our body processes. And when I say “many”, believe me… It’s REALLY many! For one, protein is significantly involved in our cell functions. They are also essential for movement support! As we age, our body loses muscle mass and bone mass naturally. Remember how you used to take the stairs swiftly in your twenties? ? Luckily, consuming enough protein can counteract the weakness and fragility of our bones and muscles!
Besides promoting muscle development and bone health, proteins are also rich sources of amino acids. When you eat, the enzymes in our digestive system break down protein into smaller peptide chains. Then, the peptide chains are broken down into individual amino acids. Finally, the amino acids are absorbed into our bloodstream to do their specific duties! Amazing how everything in our body works hand in hand, right? ? Take a look at the photo below to understand things better!
Moreover, here are the most significant roles of protein for women in menopause:
- Protein serves as food for our cells, so they can function optimally in the body.
- Protein makes up the structure of our bones, cartilages, muscles, skin and blood.
- “Hormonal proteins” are messenger proteins that coordinate some of our bodily functions. Examples of hormonal proteins are insulin, oxytocin and somatotropin.
- Protein transports oxygen and some essential nutrients throughout our body. Its ability to travel through the bloodstream enables them to be utilized by the immune system and help defend against diseases.
- “Protein enzymes” help digest our food, synthesize essential substances and break down waste products for elimination.
- “Storage proteins” reserve amino acids for the body until ready for use.
- Protein repairs and builds tissues and holds each of our genetic codes.
- It makes our teeth, hair and nails strong and healthy.
- It promotes longevity and better quality of life.
- It reduces the risk of atrial fibrillation and chronic diseases.
Is there a recommended protein intake in menopause?
According to Harvard Medical School, The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight. But more recent studies have concluded that taking in up to twice the RDA of protein “is a safe and good range to aim for.” The ideal protein consumption may also vary depending on your age, sex and activity level.
So, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasize the importance of “eating healthier protein-rich foods rather than concentrating on specific amounts of daily protein.” Moreover, studies suggest that protein is more effective if you space it out over the whole day, rather than loading up in one meal!
For women who follow the Keto-Green diet, we must be mindful that too much protein can turn into glucose, which can then turn into fat. When protein is taken in large amounts or at meals with low or no carbs, some people report a rise in their blood glucose levels. This happens due to a process called, “gluconeogenesis” — the breakdown of protein into glucose.
So, choose a wide variety of protein-rich foods and combine them effectively! First, learn how much protein you need, then get familiar with different sources and their protein values! Once you know the facts, making the right choices is as easy as A-B-C!
Have a wider understanding of the ideal protein consumption in a Keto or Keto-Green way of eating! Here’s a video from Dr. Eric Berg, a Ketogenic diet advocate! ?
How would I know if I lack protein?
Good question! In menopause, protein deficiency can mainly manifest through:
- Increased appetite and cravings
- Hair loss
- Brain fog
- Mood swings
- Poor skin health
- Loss of muscle mass
- Slow metabolism
- Decreased immunity
- Having low energy and experiencing fatigue
- Weakening of the heart and respiratory system
However, it’s not common for healthy adults in the U.S. and other developed countries to have protein deficiency. It’s because there’s an abundance of plant and animal-based foods full of protein in these regions.
In fact, many adults in the U.S. are consuming more than enough protein, especially from animal-based foods. Well, too much of anything is not okay! Typically, we don’t store protein in our body. All of our cells contain protein, but that doesn’t mean they can keep extra protein.
Our body breaks down protein foods to obtain specific amino acids that support multiple functions. Sadly, although these amino acids are necessary nutrients, we don’t benefit from getting more than what our body can use. Our body can only take the amount of protein it needs from what we eat. If there is an excessive protein intake, our body may do three things: burn it off for energy, excrete it or turn it into glucose (which is then turned into fat). I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t like the third one! ?
That’s why it is not necessary to load your diet with enormous protein quantities every day. Instead, just go for enough amounts to replenish what has been used by our body. Now, keep reading because the healthiest protein sources are waiting to be discovered below! ?
10+ Healthy and Natural Protein-Rich Sources
When we eat foods for protein, we also eat every nutrient that comes along with it. It’s the “protein package” that’s likely to make a positive difference for health! So, go for natural protein sources as much as possible. Many of us may think that we only need to eat meat to get enough protein. Well, sorry dear, but that’s so yesterday! We now have a wide array of options, and mind you, they are all healthier than going all-meat! ?
Dr. Josh Axe, a certified Doctor of Natural Medicine and Clinical Nutritionist, recommends the following protein sources:
1 → Vegetables
- Spinach (0.7 g/1 cup)
- Kale (0.6 g/1 cup)
- Bok Choy (1.05 g/1 cup)
- Asparagus (3 g/1 cup)
- Mustard Greens (1.6 g/1 cup)
- Collard Greens (1.1 g/1 cup)
- Brussel Sprouts (3 g/1 cup)
2 → Fish
- Wild-Caught Salmon (17 g/3 oz.)
- Sardines (22 g/4 oz.)
3 → Egg (7 g/1 large egg)
4 → Fermented Food
- Kefir (10 g/1 cup)
- Tempeh (15 g/3 oz.)
- Natto (15 g/0.5 cup)
5 → Beans
- Black Beans (15 g/1 cup)
- White Beans (17 g/1 cup)
6 → Lentils (18 g/1 cup)
7 → Almonds and Other Healthy Nuts (5 g/0.25 cup)
8 → Hemp Seeds (9 g/1 oz.)
9 → Grass-Fed Meat (22 g/3 oz.)
10 → Organic Chicken Breast (21 g/3 oz.)
11 → Liver (7 g/1 oz.)
To clear things up, I am not against eating meat. On the contrary, there are sorts of meat that are excellent for our health, not only for their protein value but also for the other nutrients present. But just because there’s plenty of protein in a small serving of meat doesn’t necessarily mean we should choose it over plant-based protein sources.
There’s this book, “The China Study”, and it opened my eyes a lot. It’s dubbed as “the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted.” Generally, the book is all for a plant-based diet, and it made me understand the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health. I encourage you to have a good read… The facts in this book are mind-blowing! ?
Right now, you might be wondering: “What protein-filled dishes can I make without having to use too much meat?” Don’t worry, I used to have those thoughts too! So, save all the brainstorming! Here’s a terrific video from Tasty with some high-protein salads! ?
Here’s another video for high-protein vegan salad recipes from Caitlin Shoemaker! I mean, salads made only out of greens, cucumber and tomatoes are so outdated. You can definitely make it more delicious with other healthy ingredients! This is my secret why I just can’t get enough of salads! ?
Protein Powders: Do They Work as Good as Natural Protein Sources?
Without a doubt, nothing can take the place of natural food sources for your protein needs. But I can’t blame you if the growing trend on protein powders is leaving you curious! Protein powders are enjoyed mainly by fitness enthusiasts, especially gym-goers, bodybuilders and athletes!
Can midlife women also take it? ? OF COURSE! If you are always on the go and in need of a quick nutrient boost, let protein powder do the work for you!
Protein powder provides a nutrition boost that helps you stay full for a longer period. Having a protein-rich drink made of greens, fruits and protein powder helps curb your appetite later in the day!
Now, to make sure you are going for the best choice, always read the labels attentively! Here are a couple of key factors to consider when choosing a protein powder:
- Go for the one with the fewest ingredients
- Low in carbs and sugar content
- No artificial ingredients added
- Dairy-free and gluten-free
- Organic or non-GMO
- Easy to mix and clump-free
Collagen and Protein: Are they the same?
Well, collagen is a type of protein, but it is not just “some” type of protein. Why? About one-third of all the protein present in our body consists of collagen. YUP! It is the “glue” that holds our entire body together!
Collagen is mainly responsible for the elasticity of our skin and hair. It contributes to our skin’s structure and stability and keeps the skin surface firm and smooth. Collagen also increases the moisture balance of our skin! That means, taking collagen can give us better resistance to environmental factors that cause wrinkles and lines! Besides its benefits for skin health, collagen also promotes the following:
- Stronger teeth
- Detox for a healthier liver
- Improved bone mineral density
- Reduced pain and stiffness in joints
- Helps heal damaged intestines and stomach
- Enhances metabolism and muscle growth
- Helps with weight loss
Collagen can be taken from natural food sources, supplements or powders. Visit my article to get a full list of healthy collagen sources! ?
As we move through menopause, getting the right nutrients into our body matters significantly. Always strive to better grasp the essential nutrients we need and the best sources to get them from! For protein, top it up with a balanced diet and resistance exercises to improve muscle mass and bone strength. With the countless benefits it can offer, protein is indeed a powerful aid to optimize your overall health in midlife! ?
LIKE IT? PIN IT!
We would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to add your comments below
Let´s support each other. Use the share buttons in this article, so more women can get help and feel great!
Gita is the founder of My Menopause Journey. Since 2014, she has been supporting midlife women by sharing hard-earned learnings from her own experience. To advance her knowledge, Gita puts a lot of her time and effort into understanding the broad spectrum of women’s health. She immerses in extensive research about the physical, mental and emotional aspects of menopause. Gita believes in the life-changing power of healthy, holistic living — this is where she anchors her message to all women. Learn more about her marvelous mission in About us - My Menopause Journey.
8 thoughts on “How Much Protein Should Menopausal Women Take Daily?”
“Moreover, studies suggest that protein is more effective if you space it out over the whole day, rather than loading up in one meal!”
What studies?? Meaning WHAT studies have been done in menopausal aged women that shows a steady dosing of protein throughout the day is better than 3 or 4 meals with 30 – 50 grams of protein being consumed at one time? This amount is necessary post-menopause due to the fact that we can not synthesize protein like we could in our younger years. Sarcopenia happens as we age EVEN if we are lifting weights, hence the need for bolus dosing protein. Anything less doesn’t get us the 2.5 to 3g of leucine we need to actually synthesize the protein to lay down muscle.
I’d love to see what studies there are about menopausal women and protein. Thank you for your help!! 😉
Hello Kelly, thank you for your comment!
I agree that a certain amount of protein is necessary for postmenopause. However, there are several reasons why public health organizations have shifted away from “fixed” percentages of protein, fats and carbohydrates.
Protein needs can vary depending on an individual’s baseline activity level, body mass, hormone levels, etc. The (1) quality of the protein, the (2) density of the protein in the food source and the (3) non-protein components of the protein food source must also be taken into account. Link: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29233589/
For these reasons, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasize the importance of “eating healthier protein-rich foods rather than concentrating on specific amounts of daily protein.” Link: health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
The Harvard School of Public Health also supports this claim saying: “It’s the source of protein (or, the protein “package”), rather than the amount of protein, that likely makes a difference for our health.” hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/#how-much-need
Moreover, this full article suggests that adding protein throughout the day does not only hold hunger pangs at bay (so that dieters lose more weight); It also keeps body composition (the amount of fat relative to muscle) in better proportion. But again, it will still depend on a woman’s individual needs. academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/66A/11/1218/633335?searchresult=1
Here are more studies showing why there’s no one-size-fits-all dose of protein for all women in menopause:
Adequate dietary protein is associated with better physical performance among postmenopausal women 60-90 years: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24522467/
Protein intake in community-dwelling postmenopausal women and its relationship with sarcopenia: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34666497/
Changes in muscle mass and strength after menopause: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19949277/
Furthermore, here are journal articles explaining how different kinds of physical activities affect protein synthesis:
A critical examination of dietary protein requirements, benefits, and excesses in athletes: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18577776/
How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution: jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1
I hope you find these sources good, Kelly! Thank you for reaching out. ?
All the listings you have that equal 100g of protein are off, yes? Those all should be 10g or less. One egg is around 6g of protein.
Thanks for notifying us!
The values are corrected now.
We have to blame “error code 60” for this (The problem was sitting 60 cm from the computer screen 😉 )
All the best ?
Consider revising this article. First, the idea of “complete” and “incomplete” protein is now passe. Nutrition experts have realized that as long as you’re eating a variety of foods throughout the day that provide the amino acids, vegans don’t have to worry about combining plant proteins. Also, in your list of how many grams of protein that are in different foods, you say that 28 grams of nuts/seeds provides 100 grams of protein??? Mathematically impossible! It’s more like 8 grams.
Thank you for the information. We will definitely update the article with this idea in mind.
All the best,
I don’t understand why you are pushing protein powder, surely you should be encouraging people to eat real non processed food. I know I would prefer a big salad packed with chicken, ham, cheese and eggs than a protein shake.
We couldn’t agree more that healthy food sources should be our number one source of protein.
However, in some specific diets, it can be hard to get enough protein, so a boost may be necessary with the use of protein powders.
All the best,