Dietary guidelines suggest consuming a mixed-protein diet, consisting of high-quality animal, dairy, and plant-based foods. However, current data on the distribution and the food sources of protein intake in a free-living, representative sample of US adults are not available. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2007-2010, were used in these analyses (n = 10,977, age ≥ 19 years). Several US Department of Agriculture (USDA) databases were used to partition the composition of foods consumed into animal, dairy, or plant components. Mean ± SE animal, dairy, and plant protein intakes were determined and deciles of usual intakes were estimated. The percentages of total protein intake derived from animal, dairy, and plant protein were 46%, 16%, and 30%, respectively; 8% of intake could not be classified. Chicken and beef were the primary food sources of animal protein intake. Cheese, reduced-fat milk, and ice cream/dairy desserts were primary sources of dairy protein intake. Yeast breads, rolls/buns, and nuts/seeds were primary sources of plant protein intake. This study provides baseline data for assessing the effectiveness of public health interventions designed to alter the composition of protein foods consumed by the American public.
Keywords: NHANES; dietary guidelines; energy intake; protein density; recommendations.