Given the number of protein powders and drinks on store shelves, you might think that Americans are woefully deficient in this nutrient. However, the vast majority of people get plenty of protein from the foods they eat, says Maxine Siegel, R.D., who heads CR’s food testing lab.
Protein products typically contain between 15 to 25 grams of protein per serving (although some do contain more). By comparison, a 5-ounce container of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt has around 17 grams of protein, and 3.5 ounces of chicken breast has 31 grams. Protein needs range from 0.4 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of weight a day (that would be 64 to 112 grams per day for a 160 pound person).
“That’s not a difficult amount to get in your diet, if you include natural sources of protein such as legumes, nuts, low-fat dairy, fish, and lean meats,” says Siegel. “You’ll benefit not just from the protein itself, but from all the other nutrients found in whole foods.”
So even though some protein supplements have lower contaminant levels than others, you probably don’t need to be taking them anyway, says Siegel.
Additionally, supplements in general are only loosely regulated. Though they fall under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration, the agency classifies them differently from drugs. The companies that make and sell them aren’t required to prove that they’re safe, that they work as advertised, or even that their packages contain what the labels say they do.
As always, consult your physician before taking protein—or any dietary supplement.