What Do You Know About Protein?
Proteins are molecules comprised of 20 amino acid combinations that are found everywhere throughout cells in the functioning body. Protein plays a crucial role in the production and maintenance of these functions.
• Muscle, Connective tissue and Bones
• Antibodies in the immune system
• Synthesis of Hormones, Enzymes and neurotransmitters
• Blood proteins to maintain fluids
• Transporters of other proteins
• Balancing PH levels
• Forming glucose and energy needs
Complete and incomplete proteins?
• Protein is considered complete when food sources contain all 9 essential amino acids. Animal proteins contain more than enough of these essential amino acids for the body to utilize efficiently.
• Protein is considered incomplete when food sources do not contain or is low in at least 1 of the 9 amino acids. Plant proteins are usually incomplete except for quinoa and soy.
• Combination of incomplete proteins such as cashews and kidney beans will form a complete protein. A major benefit in consuming a variety of incomplete plant proteins is that you will reach different vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and carbohydrate needs that are not readily available in animal proteins.
• 9 of the essential amino acids the body needs can only be obtained through food consumption. The 11 non-essential amino acids are produced naturally by the body.
How much protein should you be consuming?
The RDA recognizes that the average healthy adult needs to consume 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight. So if a man weighs 150 lbs. divide his weight by 2.2 kg and the result is 68kg. Now multiply the 0.8g needed by his total body weight of 68kg. The daily protein needs of a 150lb. man is 54g a day.
• Athletes and other professions that require strenuous activities need anywhere from 0.8g to 2.0g of protein per kg of body weight.
• Men and women do not differ in RDA of 0.8g of protein per kg.
What can happen if you consume too much protein?
It is wise not to consume over 35% of protein for your total caloric needs. Complications can be:
• Kidney damage due to higher nitrogen wastes
• High intake of animal proteins can result in low fiber and vitamin, mineral and phytochemical deficiencies
• Increase risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer
• May increase osteoporosis
• Athletes can develop amino acid imbalances and toxicity
Don’t worry non meat eaters
Most of the essential amino acids needed by vegetarians will come by incomplete plant proteins. Obviously vegetarians should increase serving sizes of different food groups for lack of animal proteins. Combine these foods to make sure proper amino acids are consumed:
• All Vegetarians: Legumes and Grains, Nuts, or Seeds (legumes contain the amino acid Lysine which is not available in other plant proteins).
• Lacto-ovo-vegetarians? Eggs and milk Dairy
• Lacto-vegetarians? Milk dairy
• Vegan? Fortified soy milk
1. Byrd-Bredbenner, Moe, Beshgetoor, Berning; Wardlow’s Perspectives in Nutrition.
9th Edition. McGraw-Hill, 2013.