Essential Protein : Nutritiongal Volume 4

Welcome to Volume 4 of Nutritiongal’s newsletter!

One of the most disputed subjects in the food industry is protein – how much you need, what kind, vegetarian or animal protein, organic, free range or conventionally raised?  There are so many questions and too many answers. Self proclaimed gurus tell you it’s their way or the highway.  Who is right and who is wrong?

Let’s take a look a few points on protein.

Protein is an essential macro nutrient consisting of a complete chain of amino acids which assist your body in growth and repair.  Without it your cells cannot adequately receive the nutrition they need to maintain your bodily functions, such as, metabolic processes, cellular regeneration and the immune response, to name few. Protein also aids cellular functions in the break down of fat through thermogenesis.  It is obvious that protein plays an important role in our health.

The latest trend in the diet industry is to increase the consumption of protein but how much is too much?  Is eating high amounts of protein really good for the body?   Famous advocates of higher protein consumption, such as the late Dr. Robert Atkins, have been both revered and criticized and even perhaps misunderstood.  Dr. Atkin’s first phase for weight loss, Induction, in which the individual removes all sources of carbohydrates except for leafy greens was intended for overweight people with blood sugar issues in most cases.  Induction was meant to last for up to two weeks under the supervision of medical practitioner or a nutritionist.  Many people have taken this to the next level and maintained a no carb or extremely low carb diet for a prolonged period of time for quick weight loss, and experienced health problems, as a result, such as kidney disease etc…  In today’s society where we are constantly bombarded with more food than we can possibly consume, and the rising obesity epidemic it is no wonder that people may misconstrue one dietary theory and use it as a form a quick weight loss rather than a gradual shifting of eating patterns to produce more balanced way of eating that is easier to maintain. I digress….

The amount of protein you needs depends on many factors, such as : gender, activity level, height, weight and age.  Generally speaking the amount of protein most nutritionists recommend for consumption is the size of the palm of your hand, which is one portion per meal.  If you are active you may require more protein to assist your body in building and repairing muscle.  If you are young you may require higher amounts of protein to assist in growth.  Generally speaking, males require higher amounts of protein than females due to their higher muscle content, and, thus, higher metabolisms.

How do you know for sure how much protein you need?  Aside from checking with your medical practitioner you can also experiment with different amounts and kinds of protein and see what works best for you . Try tuning into the signals your body is sending you.  If you feel tight, a bit dehydrated, lethargic, heavy and are having trouble with constipation you may be consuming too much protein. If you feel jittery or fatigued and are dreaming of eating chicken or snapping candy like it’s your job (sugar cravings) you may need to consider adding more protein to your diet.

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to consume adequate protein.  Some body builders with massive amounts of muscle are vegetarians.  Although non animal protein sources do not contain the complete chain of amino acids, you can obtain more than adequate protein in your diet by combining the different sources to make a complete protein meal, such as eating beans with rice or adding miso soup to a meal of vegetarian sushi.

Animal sources of protein :

1.) Eggs – free range contain more omega 3 fatty acids and promote the humane treatment of chicken

2.) Meat – chicken, beef, pork – Antibiotic, free range is more nutritious. Buffalo is a delicious, lean alternative to beef and high in omega 3 fatty acids.

3.) Fish – ocean fish with low mercury content is more nutritious than farm raised and higher in omega 3s

4.) Dairy -for those that do not have dairy sensitivities dairy can be a good source of protein.  Look for organic to avoid consuming antibiotics and bovine growth hormone

Vegetarian sources of protein

1.) Tofu, tempeh, edamame – all made from soy – fermented sources of soy, such as tempeh are much easier to digest and have less hormonal isoflavins (a controversial subject that I will cover at a later time)

2.) Beans – mixed with brown or white rice make a complete protein. They are a great money saving source of protein.

3.) Nuts and nut butters – if going with peanut butter organic is best since conventionally grown peanuts contain the highest amounts of pesticides.

4.) Whey Protein Isolate – made form wheat gluten, many non meat sources, such as vegetarian chicken patties are made with this and are soy free.

5.) Seitan – also made from wheat gluten is a soy free complete protein source for those who do not have gluten intolerance

6.) Grains – rice, millet, quinoa, oats, buckwheat – quinoa is especially high in protein.

Check out this article on the best and worst sources of vegetarian and non vegetarian protein and decide for yourself!


The Nutritiongal

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