To sustain life, you need protein, one of the three major macronutrients. It factors in the health of body cells and is essential to perform vital functions, for example repairing and building cells and strengthening the immune system.
Hence, it’s crucial that your diet includes the proper amount – and type – of protein throughout each day. Ever since integrative health coaching in LA, I’ve reminded clients that all proteins are NOT created equal!
Protein is composed of 20 amino acids or building blocks. Your body can make some amino acids on its own, but food must supply nine of the essential acids, which is where diet comes into play. These are:
Most people are unaware that plant proteins are mainly incomplete, meaning that they don’t supply essential amino acids the body requires but is unable to make. In addition, research suggests that plant proteins are not as easily absorbed as proteins from meat and fish.
Complete proteins contain each of the nine essential amino acids. Your body can efficiently absorb and use them, and they can help your body make new protein. The majority of animal products contain all nine amino acids and include beef, lamb, pork, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy.
Although most grain and plant-based foods do not contain all nine essential amino acids, a few do. These include quinoa, buckwheat, and soy products, such as edamame, tofu, tempeh, and soy milk. When they don’t contain all nine, you can combine plant-based foods to create complete proteins. Here is a list of combinations making a complete protein:
- Legumes with Grains
- Legumes with Nuts
- Legumes with Seeds
- Grains with Dairy
- Nuts/Seeds with Dairy
- Legumes with Dairy
- Dairy with Nuts/Seeds and Legumes
The Quality of Protein
According to research and in my experience as a nutrition coach in Los Angeles, many Americans do not understand foods’ protein content. Instead of investigating the statement of ingredients and percent Daily Value (DV) on product labels, which supplies a more accurate picture of the proteins’ quality, shoppers solely consider the number of grams of protein.
With respect to their individual amino acid make-up and level of amino acid bioactivity, proteins differ widely. If products claim to have a “good source of protein,” they must contain greater than ten percent DV of protein per serving, while those that claim to provide an “excellent source of protein” need to contain greater than 20 percent DV. So, rather than reading 5 grams or 10 grams of protein per serving, you should understand the label means 5 grams and 10 grams of “quality” protein.
Food experts determine the percent Daily Value for protein using the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), which adjusts for the overall protein’s quality. Experts base it on the amounts and types of amino acids the food contains, as well as its general digestibility.
PDCAAS values exist in a range of 0.0 to 1.0, in which values are limited to a 1.00 maximum score, that meat, fish, and soy proteins all contain. The majority of plant-based protein sources contain far lower values.
That’s why a beef jerky stick that has 10 grams of protein is able to boast an “excellent source of protein”, whereas a similar vegetarian snack made from peas and wheat that has 10 grams of protein can only claim to be a “good source of protein.” When a product makes or implies a claim for any protein content, the US Food and Drug Administration mandates including the percent DV to support its claim.
Your protein requirements depend on various factors, such as gender, age, weight, height, activity level, and medical history. It’s possible that you get enough protein but neglect to spread it out throughout the day.
If you limit yourself to plant-based proteins, like nuts, beans, and grains, you will have to consume larger amounts of plant products to meet your protein needs. In addition, animal products provide you with other minerals and vitamins, such as B12, iron, and zinc that plant products don’t supply or can in limited amounts.
Don’t eat conventionally produced, grain-fed meat
Meat, particularly beef, has a very high content of a type of fat called arachidonic acid (AA). Minor quantities of AA are crucial for your health, and it is especially important for children’s developing brains. For adults, however, too much AA can lead to the formation of inflammatory chemicals.
In fact, AA has been fingered as a contributor to a number of diseases, including arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. An omega-6 fatty acid, AA has to be formed from omega-6 fats, such as those corn and soy contain – the most common types of conventional animal feed. If you eat meat, the good news is that grass-fed cows have a different fatty acid profile from conventional beef raised in feedlots.
The grass that the cows eat is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which get transferred to the animal. Although grass-fed animal meat still contains AA, it also contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. I tell my Los Angeles health coach clients that to obtain an optimal fatty acid profile, it is essential to eat beef that has been 100 percent grass-fed and not finished off with corn and/or soy feeds.
Importance of high omega 3 fish or supplementation
Omega-3 fatty acids benefit several bodily functions, including:
Development of the nervous system
Construction of cell membranes, in particular cells in the brain, retinas, and sperm
Movement of substances in and out of cells
Omega-3s are found naturally in certain foods or can be taken as fish oil dietary supplements. Oily fish like sardines. mackerel and salmon contain the omega-3s docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Besides, walnuts and butternuts are high in omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), as are certain vegetable oils, such as canola, flaxseed, and soy.
According to research, taking omega-3 fatty acids could provide the following benefits:
1) Healthier Heart
Eating fish or taking fish oil supplements to increase levels of DHA and EPA improves several heart disease risk factors. NIH fact sheet, “Omega-3 Fatty Acids,” says that studies show that taking omega-3s may decrease triglyceride levels and slightly lower blood pressure. In addition, studies suggest that omega-3s reduce heart attack and stroke risk among those that suffer from cardiovascular disease.
2) Relief from Rheumatoid Arthritis
Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, taking fish oil supplements regularly can lessen morning stiffness, relieve swollen joint pain, and decrease the need for corticosteroid drugs in those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
3) Lowered Depression and Anxiety
Depression is one of the world’s most common mental disorders. People who are depressed are lethargic, sad, and disinterested in life. Anxiety, also common, causes continual worry and nervousness. People who regularly consume omega-3s, particularly EPAs, are less prone to depression. And when those with anxiety or depression start taking omega-3 supplements, they see an improvement in symptoms.
Omega-3s Have Loads of Health Benefits
Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important to optimize health. The best way to ensure optimal omega-3 intake is to get them from whole foods, for example consuming fatty fish twice weekly. If you don’t like to eat fatty fish, you can benefit from omega-3 supplementation. If you are omega-3 deficient, this is an inexpensive and remarkably effective way of improving health.
Wellness Coach Hollywood LA
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