Protein deficiency is one dietary problem most Americans do not have, but getting too much protein—and suboptimal protein—is. To this fact add another one: as you age your ability to create, transport, and break down proteins decreases. The combined result is a loss of muscle tone, the appearance of wrinkles, loss and graying of hair, less energy, joint stiffness, and a host of other difficulties. Excess protein can be converted into fat, and it also places stress on the liver and kidneys as these organs try to rid the body of unwanted by-products of metabolism. Too much protein can also cause dehydration and your kidneys to excrete calcium in urine, which increases your risk for osteoporosis.
To optimize the anti-aging power of your protein intake, first calculate your protein needs: the RDA for protein for adults is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. Therefore, if you weigh 150 pounds, your protein requirement is 150×0.36 = 54 grams. Remember, 0.36 g/lb is an average.
Choose lean cuts of meat from animals that were organically raised.
Avoid processed meats, including hot dogs, smoked meats, bacon, sausages, ham, and cold cuts. These foods are usually high in saturated fat, sodium, and artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives, including cancer-causing nitrates and nitrites.
Include plant-based protein in your diet. Beans, legumes, veggie burgers, tempeh, and soy-based “meats” often have just as much protein, if not more, than a comparable amount of animal protein, and without the saturated fat (soybeans do contain some fat).
Eat protein with carbohydrates. (A turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread or tofu with brown rice are examples of this nutrient combination.) Protein takes longer to digest than carbs, so it slows down the release of glucose into your bloodstream. The result is that you will feel more energetic.
Eggs and egg whites are a good source of protein. Some brands are from animals that have been fed fortified feed that enhances the omega-3 fatty acid content of the eggs.