The importance of protein in our diet.

When I decided to become a vegetarian I spent a good few weeks researching everything first. Because I am very active and also do strength training I was worried about how I was going to get enough complete proteins in my diet.

Proteins are the basic structure of all living cells in our bodies. The building blocks that make up proteins, are called amino acids.

Of the 20 amino acids we know about, 9 of these must come from dietary intake. The other 11 can be manufactured by the body.

Today most people think of eating as for pleasure, we eat cake and pizza and chips because we enjoy them. What our food is supposed to do is fuel our body, give us energy and keep us healthy. Sure by eating pizza and chips you can still get fuel and energy, but you can’t get health. To be healthy we need to be eating fruit, vegetables, grains, seeds, REAL unprocessed, unrefined raw foods!

To show how important our food consumption is in maintaining our health, here is a list below of the 9 essential amino acids (remember these are the ones that you must get from your dietary intake), and which part of your health and body they directly effect.

Essential Amino Acids
Histidine – hemoglobin component; used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, allergic diseases, ulcers & anemia. A deficiency may cause hearing problems.
Isoleucine and Leucine – mental alertness, also provides manufacturing components for other essential biochemical components in the body, which are utilized for the production of energy and upper brain stimulants.
Lysine – Insures adequate absorption of calcium; helps form collagen (component of bone, cartilage and connective tissues); aids in the production of antibodies, hormones & enzymes. Lysine may be effective against herpes by improving the balance of nutrients that reduce viral growth. A deficiency may result in tiredness, inability to concentrate, irritability, bloodshot eyes, retarded growth, hair loss, anemia & reproductive problems.
Methionine – a sulfur source, which prevents disorders of the hair, skin and nails. Lowers cholesterol by increasing the liver’s production of lecithin and reduces liver fat build-up. Protects the kidneys; a natural chelating agent for heavy metals; regulates the formation of ammonia and creates ammonia-free urine thereby reducing bladder irritation; promotes healthy hair growth.
Phenylalanine – allows brain to produce Norepinephrine used for the transmission of signals between nerve cells and the brain; regulates hunger, antidepressant; improves memory and mental alertness.
Threonine – a component of collagen, Elastin, and enamel protein; reduces liver fat build-up; promotes proper digestive system function and metabolism.
Tryptophan – a relaxant, alleviates insomnia, prevents migraine; reduces anxiety and depression; promotes proper immune system function. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular spasms. Works in conjunction with Lysine to lower cholesterol levels.
Valine – Promotes mental health, muscle coordination and tempers emotions.

Now knowing this, don’t you want to make sure you are getting enough of all of these amino acids in your diet? If this is how much they directly effect your health and your body, don’t you want to think a bit more carefully about what you are eating?

I always think very carefully about my meals, they are all planned ahead and well thought out to fit my daily macro needs and to make sure they are as nutritious as possible. I know not everybody will want to plan their meals and think about it as much as i do, but here is  a little help on getting the correct amino acids in your diet, its quite simple!

Complete proteins are proteins that contain all nine of the essential amino acids in a sufficient quantity. Here are a few complete proteins which are easy to fit into your daily meals, so no excuses.

Complete Proteins – Meat, fish, milk, cheese & eggs. And here are a few for us veggies & vegans – quinoa, tempeh, quorn.

You can also eat a mixture of different foods that have different incomplete proteins, to make up a complete protein meal.

For example – Beans & rice, peanut butter on wheat bread, ricecakes & peanut butter, grains & dairy (cereal & milk), sesame seed bread roll (grains and seeds), yogurt & granola,

It is not necessary to combine proteins at the same meal as many people believe. So you could have different incomplete proteins with different meals during the day, as long as you are getting enough of each of the nine essential amino acids throughout the full day.

If you can ensure you are getting all of the 9 amino acids each day, you are literally giving your body good health. Just look at the list above, if you eat enough of each of these amino acids you are preventing any of those sicknesses from being able to live in your body.  You are protecting yourself from these illnesses. Don’t eat unhealthy foods and then wait until your already sick and rely on medication, eat the correct foods and ensure you don’t get sick in the first place. Most of all Eat REAL FOODS, food grown on a farm, not in a factory.

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