17 Jul Protein 101:
I typically blog recipe posts, but I am going to begin blogging more on specific topics each week pertaining to health, nutrition, fitness, and wellness. I think it is important for everyone to understand the role certain food groups play in our growth and metabolism and how incorporating these macronutrients will optimize our health/wellbeing.
Firstly, protein is one of the three major macronutrients that our body needs. Protein is essential for our growth and development of new cells and is contained in every organ throughout our body. We need protein to create structures in the body such as muscle, bone, skin, and tissues. Protein is also necessary to help maintain the body’s fluid and electrolyte balance, acid-base balance, hormone production, repair damaged cells, transportation of fluids and nutrients, protection against disease, and fuel when absolutely necessary. Complete proteins are formed by amino acids, which are the organic compounds linked together and result after we break down protein via digestion.
There are 20 different types that differentiate amino acids and three categories: essential, nonessential, and conditional. There are nine essential amino acids that we do not produce, which requires them to be obtained through food. Nonessential amino acids are produced by most healthy individuals or stored within the body. Conditional amino acids denote proteins, which are only necessary for specific times such as during trauma, stress, illness, injury, or premature birth. Since nonessential amino acids can be made within the body and essential amino acids come from food sources, it is imperative to include all the essential amino acids in your diet.
The essential amino acids include: leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, threonine, phenylalanine, lysine, histidine, valine, and tryptophan. They must be obtained through foods sources.
The following foods contain one or more of the essential amino acids (in no specific order): eggs, milk, cheese, lean meat and fish, broccoli, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, legumes, peanuts, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, peppers, carrots, celery, squash, peas, bananas, oranges, apricots, sprouted grains, cauliflower, sweet potato, buckwheat, cantaloupe, rye, avocado, spinach, kale, chia seeds, soybeans, quinoa, seaweed, watercress, kidney beans, blueberries, figs, apples, seaweed, cranberries, kiwi, raisins, almonds, oats, lentils, walnuts, pecans, corn, brown rice, black beans, barley, cabbage, cashews, parsley, spirulina, chickpeas, brazil nuts, cacao and onions.
Although these foods contain amino acids in their natural state does not mean they are a good source of protein (especially if they are processed). They may also contain other macronutrients including fat and carbs. For example, avocados and beans have fat, carbs, fiber, AND protein.
Look for “complete proteins”, which are proteins that contain all 9 essential amino acids, and are found in very lean sources of food (eggs, meat, fish). Complete proteins are “fast-acting”, meaning that they are absorbed faster and cause protein synthesis–helping to build muscle and prevent degradation. There are 4 calories per 1 gram of protein, which is the same weight as carbohydrates. However, protein is more beneficial for weight loss because it is more satisfying, helps to build muscle which speeds up the metabolism, and does not negatively effect glucose levels.