|Katrina VB. Claghorn, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.|
|Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania|
| Last Modified: February 1, 2012
Why protein is important
Protein is very important to keep your body functioning and is also needed for growth and repair. Protein is found in almost all body cells and has many roles such as:
In general, your diet will provide enough protein. However, during cancer treatment (such as surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy) your protein requirements may increase. It is important to be aware of food sources of protein and to include these foods at meals and snacks.
Your protein requirement
To come up with a quick estimate of your protein requirement:
For example: If you weigh 180 pounds, 180 ÷ 2 = 90 grams of protein daily
If you are receiving chemotherapy, radiation or surgery you may need more protein. Your dietitian can help you figure out your protein needs during treatment.
Food sources of protein
Protein is found in both animal and plant foods. Animal sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. Plant sources of protein include nuts, seeds, tofu and legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils). Grains (cereals, breads and rice) and vegetables contain a little protein. Fruits and fats do not have any protein.
Protein content of foods
Food Serving Grams of Protein
High protein snacks
Ways to add protein to food
Calories and protein
To make sure that the protein you eat is used for important body functions you must eat enough calories. If you loose weight, your body will use protein for energy rather than to support important body functions.
If you are not eating enough protein you may need to use protein supplements. The cheapest and easiest protein supplement is dry skim milk powder. Mix the powder with liquid milk to increase the protein content. Also, add dry milk powder to any creamy foods such as mashed potatoes, casseroles, scrambled eggs and creamed soups. You can also add it to pancake and muffin batter. Use pasteurized egg substitute in shakes and recipes as a protein supplement. However, you should never use raw eggs, due to the risk of getting salmonella.
Double strength milk recipe:
You can buy protein supplements at drug stores and health food stores. They are available as powder that can be mixed with liquids or foods.
If you are lactose intolerant
Low lactose milks (Lactaid©), cheeses and ice cream are available. People who are mildly lactose intolerant can often tolerate yogurt and fattier dairy foods such as cheese and ice cream. Soymilk and rice milk, which are non-dairy products, can be substituted for milk. Lactaid© pills, which contain the enzyme that digests milk, can be taken before eating dairy foods. They are available at most drug stores.