Protein Requirements for People Over 70

group of protein sources including eggs, almonds, and cottage cheese

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

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If you're over 70 and typically have just toast and jam for breakfast, you might want to add protein to your meal. While protein at breakfast is a good idea at any age, research suggests that eating the right amount daily is even more important for maintaining optimal health when you're over 70.

How Much Protein Do You Need? 

Although you may have met the recommended daily intake of protein in young adulthood and middle age, changes in appetite and food intake later in life can result in not getting enough of this macronutrient. You also may not be deriving enough value from the protein you are consuming.

General guidelines for the entire adult population once recommended consuming 0.8 g of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day (0.8 g/kg/day). But Carol Greenwood, a specialist in geriatric nutrition at the University of Toronto, says that nutrition research suggests that people over the age of 70 should get at least 1 g/kg/day.

"For the average 50-year-old, 55 to 70 grams of protein each day is likely enough," says Greenwood. "But new data points to the 0.8 g/kg/day standard being a bit low for people over 70, so a range of 70 to 85 grams is probably a healthier target."

What If You're Not Hungry? 

A challenge for many older adults is that as they age, their sense of taste begins to change. In addition, a diminished sense of smell can make even favorite foods taste different or less appealing. You may not feel like eating as much as you used to, putting you at risk of not getting enough nutrients.

"Most older adults just don't have the appetite they used to have," Greenwood says. "This is true even for healthy, community-dwelling older people; they just can't eat the quantities they did when they were 50. As their appetite declines, there's less room for empty calories, so they have to be careful to eat more protein than they used to even if they don't feel like it."

When You Eat Is As Important As How Much

Another consideration is how often you eat protein during the day. Younger adults have the ability to store small amounts of amino acids (protein's building blocks) from one meal to the next, but that changes around the age of 70, according to Greenwood.

"For people 70 and older, the window of time between protein meals must be shorter than in younger people. You shouldn't count on having a steak for dinner, and then no protein until tomorrow night's dinner. Every meal should have some healthy source of protein in it."

Aim to eat about a third of your daily protein allotment at each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

How to Get More Protein

Nutritious, lower-fat sources of protein include poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs.

Plant-based sources of protein include seeds like hemp hearts, which have 10 g of protein in a 30 g (3 Tbsp) serving. Nuts have been linked to greater longevity but not necessarily weight gain despite being high in calories.

A Word From Verywell

As you become older (over 70), you may become less efficient at using and storing the protein in the food you eat. Your appetite may diminish, so you may need to make an extra effort to get enough nutrients. Space your protein intake evenly throughout the day.

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3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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