Hi, Food and Fitness Lovers!
Well, here we are again, talking about protein. I’m amazed at how much misinformation is still out there, about this macronutrient. I have read four different articles recently, regarding healthy eating plans: all from very reputable sources, I might add. Each one of them made a statement that prompted me to write this post. “No one should ever eat a meal that doesn’t contain protein.” It is actually impossible to eat a meal without protein being involved. Unless of course you’re eating dyed plastic, in the form of candy. That’s the one exception to the rule.
Our bodies, being the miraculous machines that they are, make the protein they need from amino acids. There are 28 amino acids to be exact. 19 are non-essential; 9 are essential. Non-essential aminos are made by the body with no help from us. Essential aminos are taken in through our diet.
Histidine is considered both a non-essential, and essential amino acid. Before the age of 5, and after the age of 80, we use Histidine for growth and repair. That leaves us with 8 essential amino acids. These again, we get through the foods we eat. Histidine shows great promise in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and many other degenerative diseases. Many amino acids have powerful antioxidant properties, in addition to being our protein building blocks.
When we eat a well rounded diet, it’s easy to get all of the amino acids, and therefore, makes it much easier for the body to build the protein we need, at the time we need it. There are approximately 100,000 types of proteins that make up the human body. Some are in solutions in our blood, others are in solid form, such as bone, teeth, and hair. We can never know exactly which proteins our bodies need at any given time. For instance, protein calms the nervous system: when we’re having fun, that is also kind of scary, like riding a roller coaster, our brain asks for different amino acids, then when we are in a scary and stressful situation, like being held hostage, for example. Then, a different set of aminos are called upon to keep us from doing something that may get us mortally wounded. We have all heard of the “fight or flight response. This is amino acids in action.
All real foods contain aminos. Broccoli is 49% protein. What this means, is broccoli contains 49% of the necessary amino acids to make a complete protein. Here, I believe, is where the confusion, and misstatements happen. Meat contains every amino acid, as do legumes, nuts and seeds. Ergo, they are a “complete protein.” No need for the body to do anything. It’s complete! Most vegetables and fruits only have a certain percentage of the required essentials. So, they are considered non-complete proteins.
The only time we need extra protein, is when our bodies are very sick, for a long period of time. When we are pregnant. The constant practice of fad dieting, and/or starvation and binging. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa: all cause imbalances in the protein-making mechanisms inside our cells. Generalized, unmanaged stress can also cause changes in our ability to bind the essential aminos to the non-essential aminos.
Long term gorging on complete proteins is also very hard on our kidneys, as the by-product of digesting protein is ammonia. High protein, fad diets, wreak havoc on our kidneys, and other vital organs. I have seen many cases of this, especially in bodybuilders.
One of my favorite questions as posed by many a nutrition professor: “Who is the strongest in the jungle, and what does he eat?” The male Silverback Gorilla; with the estimated strength of 8 Olympic weight lifters, his diet is 86% vegetation, i.e., leaves, shoots, stems, and a small amount of fruit. On occasion, when ripe fruit is scarce, he will partake of grubs, and other insects. Mainly, for their water content: not protein.
Taking a break from complete proteins is a healthy choice. It gives our digestive tract, intestines, and colon a chance to clean out the toxic residue that is inherent in animal proteins. This includes dairy. We need the walls of our intestines to remain free of mucus and putrefactive strings. This residue blocks absorption of vital nutrients and of course, the all important amino acids.
So the next time someone tells you, you’re not eating enough protein: remind them; this is almost impossible, as there are amino acids in every real food. Here’s to healthy kidneys, and a well-balanced eating plan.