|Unless we are consuming enough protein, our bodies will not be able to
function optimally. For this reason, vegetarians need to be particularly
careful that they consume a full range of proteins from non-animal
sources. Time and time again, studies have shown that a poor protein
intake can have serious consequences on immune function. Eating fish
several times a week is an excellent source of protein, as is tofu.
Chicken and turkey eaten occasionally are also good sources of protein.
Protein is considered one of the most abundant substances found in our
bodies and is second only to water. Our skin, muscles, hair, nails, eyes
and enzymes are essentially comprised of protein. Unless we supply our
bodies with protein, we cannot create infection-fighting antibodies,
regenerate our tissues or grow. Protein is chemically composed of
carbon, hydrogen oxygen and nitrogen. Its primary function is to build
and repair body tissues. Protein molecules are made up of organic
compounds called amino acids. These amino acids are linked end to end
and create a structure resembling long, sphere-like chains. The
individual attributes of each protein are determined by the nature and
shape of these amino acid chains. Twenty amino acids are required to
synthesize protein and half of these are produced by the human body.
Essential amino acids, which must be obtained from the diet include
isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine,
tryptophan, and valine. Arginine and histidine are considered
|The most common dietary sources of protein are meat, fish, seafood,
eggs, dairy products, grain products, and legumes (which include beans
and peas). As we mentioned earlier, as a nation, we consume much
more meat than we require. Excess protein consumption can tax the
kidneys, contribute to obesity and create colon toxicity. Note: New
studies suggest that some people actually need to increase their
protein consumption and lower their carbohydrate intake. Remember,
it's the type of protein you eat that counts. The properties of specific
proteins vary depending on the number and arrangement of individual
Proteins are classified as being nutritionally complete or incomplete.
Complete proteins such as eggs are able to initiate cellular growth.
Partially complete protein, such as the gluten found in wheat,
contributes to physiological function but is missing specific amino acids
necessary to promote growth. Incomplete proteins found in corn, for
example, cannot sustain life in and of themselves. However when
combined with beans, they form a complete protein.|
|For our purposes, it is important to learn which foods contain the
essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce. Meat and dairy
products are the most common sources of essential amino acids in
western nations. While plant sources of protein can be lacking in some
of these amino acids, mixing certain foods together can create a
complete protein food as mentioned in the example of corn and beans.
A dietary mix of whole grains and beans can satisfy the body's amino