Nutrition facts you should know for the continuing health of your body. Eat from the right sources of protein to avoid taxing your kidneys and liver.
What Is Protein?
When we talk about protein … meat, eggs, cheese, muscles all come to mind. There are many myths that surround protein … let’s look at some of them.
Protein is made out of nitrogen-containing molecules called amino acids. They are the basic building material for all living cells.
Every cell in our body needs protein to stay alive. Protein is necessary for tissue repair and for building new tissues.
Your muscles, hair, nails, skin and eyes are made from proteins. So are the cells that make up all the organs in your body system – nerves, lungs, liver, kidneys, heart, brain and your sex glands.
Recognizing Protein Deficiency
If you feel tired most of the time, there is a possibility that you are lacking usable protein in your diet. Some of the symptoms are:
- Having puffy eyes in the morning
- Swollen ankles from water retention (edema)
- Brittle and weak nails – nails are made of protein, not calcium as most people seem to think
- Hair thinning
- Premature aging (looking haggard)
- Cuts/wounds that take a long time to heal
- Slow growth (in children)
The Amino Acid Family
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When you consume protein, it is broken down into various amino acids and transported throughout your body through your blood. Your cells then pick and choose the amino acids that they need to construct new body tissues, blood cells, enzymes, hormones, etc.
There are 25 different amino acids that piece together to make various proteins for different use, like letters of the alphabet, each serving its own purpose. Of these, 8 are essential amino acids that are like the vowels. Just as you cannot form words without the vowels, you cannot build complete proteins without these essential amino acids.
For a protein food source to be complete, it must contain the eight essential amino acids. From these the rest of the amino acids can be made. Non-essential doesn’t mean that you don’t need them. It just means that your body can manufacture them. Whereas essential means that your body cannot manufacture them and you have to obtain it from your diet.
Non-essential amino acids: Cystine, homocysteine, tyrosine, glycine, carnitine, glutathione, serine, aspartic acid, gamma-aminobutyric acid, glutamine, glutamic acid, arginine, alnine, proline, hydroxyproline.
Essential amino acids: Trytophan, valine, leucine, isoleucine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, lysine.
Semi-essential amino acids: Taurine, histidine.
The common myth is that you should obtain 15% of your total calories from protein, but what kind of protein? The best foods to eat for protein are not necessarily those that are highest in protein, but the quality of protein you take is very important.
For example, a breast-fed baby receive only about 1% of his total calories from his mother’s milk but can double his birth weight in a matter of months. This is because the protein from a mother’s milk is of high quality and can be easily assimilated.
Animal products, though high in protein, are also very high in saturated fats. Moreover, modern farming methods leave much to be desired in the quality of the meat that is full of antibiotics, growth hormones, diseases and pesticides.
How Much Protein?
Some weight loss programs recommend very high protein diets that contain between 100 and 200 grams of proteins a day. This is way too high and can be dangerous for health.
Protein produces breakdown products that give extra work to your kidneys and liver. If your kidneys are healthy and your protein intake is moderate, no problem. But if you have even a mild kidney problem and ate high protein, especially from meat, it adds stress to the kidneys and worsen their condition.
Meat protein is acidic and causes the blood to be acidic, a perfect environment for bacteria to breed and diseases to spark. Marked acid load to the kidneys also increases the risk for kidney stones formation. When the blood is acidic, calcium (an alkalizing agent) is required to neutralize the pH in the blood. This causes calcium imbalance and increases the risk for bone loss.
Different “experts” give different numbers to the amount of protein required. Basically, how much protein you need depends on your body weight, your body fat and your physical activity.
The US RDA suggests 0.8gram/kg/day. For example, if you weigh about 70kg (154lbs) you will need about 56g protein a day (70*0.8). If physically active, undergoing some stress, sickness, pregnant, nursing mothers, and children – add up to 30 grams a day to this basic requirement.
Good Sources Of Protein
Although animal protein is complete protein, it is not encouraged for consumption as it is causes the blood to be acidic and thickens. In any case, some animal proteins are destroyed when cooked, rendering it less bio-available for the body and may become “waste” that stay in the body, causing health problems.
Plant protein is incomplete protein but is preferred over animal protein. Being incomplete means that you need to eat a variety in order to obtain all the amino acids, or to combine with dairy products for them to be useful for your body. However, some of the most complete plant protein sources are from quinoa, spirulina and chlorella (see below).
To give you an idea how much protein there are in some common foods, below is a list of quality sources of protein. Each measurement gives about 20 grams protein, so combine the foods to achieve your daily required amount:
|Grains / Legumes
|100 g / 1 cup dry weight
400 g / 3 cups
60 g / 1 cup
130 g / 2 cups
110 g / 0.75 cup
|Fish / Meat
|35 g / 1 small piece
133 g / 1 serving
100 g / 1 serving
80 g / 2 slices
70 g / 1 small piece – breast
|Nuts / Seeds
|188 g / 1 cup
70 g / 0.5 cup
90 g / 0.5 cup
110 g / 1 cup
|Eggs / Dairy (Organic)
Natural plain yogurt
Whole, low-fat milk
|170 g / 2 medium
440 g / 3 small containers
84 g / 3 oz
120 g / 1 small container
600 ml / 2.5 cups
|200 g / 2 cups
600 g / 1 large bag
390 g / 1 large bag
950 g / 4 large
Some of the Best Protein Foods
Believe it or not, when you drink juices, a lot of your fruits and vegetables do contain some protein. Think of protein as building blocks, like wood and bricks that you need when building a house, versus cleansing. When you’re doing body cleanse (juice fast/feast), the body is doing tearing down work (catabolism). Building materials are not needed when you clean your house. Instead you need PLENTY of fresh juices and WATER. Some suggestions of best protein food …
Quinoa (pronounced kee-nwa) is called the “mother grain” because of its near-perfection in natural food quality. It is usually known as a grain, but technically it is a seed that is rich in essential fats, vitamins and minerals. Don’t let the tiny seeds deceive you, its protein quality is unusually complete and far better than that of meat. It is also an excellent source of calcium, iron, vitamins, B and E.
Cook quinoa much like how you would cook rice: bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of quinoa, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14–18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it (like al dente pasta).
Spirulina and Chlorella
Spirulina and Chlorella are single-celled algae that are exceptionally complete plant protein foods. They contain all the essential amino acids and are highly digestible, making them ideal as superior quality protein supplements.
Not only are they high in protein, they are considered whole foods that contain vitamin B12 that is scarce from any other plant food. They are also rich in iron, a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, trace elements, essential fatty acids, phytonutrients and anti-oxidants.
Spirulina and chlorella are food, so there is no worry about overdosage. To see any result at all, at least 10 grams a day is recommended to be taken either in tablet form, powder or liquid. For fighting disease, double or triple the dosage. You know you’re getting enough when your stools are green!
Avocado is another food that contains complete protein with all the essential amino acids. The nutritional benefits far outweigh the concern of its high calories. In fact, you will find that most people who eat avocados regularly are not fat.
Other superior nutrition you obtain from avocados are vitamin B3 (niacin or folic acid), calcium, iron, potassium.