Greater protein intake is associated with a higher quality diet that includes more vitamins and minerals.
In this study in young adults entering the military, they ranked participants habitual protein intake from lowest to highest:
1️⃣ Group 1 consumed 0.9 g/kg bodyweight and an average of 29 g/1000 calories.
2️⃣ Group 2 consumed 1.2 g/kg bodyweight (36 g/1000 calories).
3️⃣ Group 3 consumed 1.3 g/kg bodyweight (41 g/1000 calories).
4️⃣ Group 4 consumed 1.3 g/kg bodyweight (48 g/1000 calories).
Those who consumed the most protein (group 4) also habitually consumed more total vegetables, including dark greens, orange vegetables and legumes as well as more dairy and more whole grains (females only).
For both males and females, vitamin and mineral intakes (with the exception of vitamin C and calcium) progressively increased with greater protein intake. Calcium intake was greater in groups 2, 3 and 4 compared to group 1.
It’s easy to think participants consumed a more nutritious diet because they happened to eat more fruits and veggies.
But, greater protein intake was associated with greater intake of several vitamins and minerals independent of fruit and vegetable intake. This suggests the food sources of protein were related to greater vitamin and mineral intake.
Greater protein intake was also associated with better dietary quality scores independent of total calorie intake.
This study suggests consuming more calories from protein-containing whole foods supports healthy dietary intake patterns.
Note this is not considered “high” protein intake but it is higher than the measly RDA (Recommended dietary allowance) of 0.8 g/kg bodyweight. Many Americans, especially over 50, do not even meet the RDA.