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High Protein Foods

pHion Balance  |  0 Comment

Protein is one of three essential macronutrients in human nutrition. (The other two are fats and carbohydrates.) Proteins comprise about one-fifth of your body weight and form the architectural underpinnings of your eyes, skin, hair, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and internal organs. Only water is more abundant than protein in your tissues.

Amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, can be used by your body for energy; more importantly, they are used to synthesize hormones, neurotransmitters, enzymes, antibodies and other immune molecules, carrier molecules (hemoglobin and albumin, for example), pigments, and structural components.

Obviously, proteins are an essential component of your diet. However, in developed countries like the United States, protein deficiency is uncommon; most Americans actually consume more protein than they need. In fact, surplus dietary protein is one of the driving forces behind the obesity epidemic. After all, like other energy-containing nutrients, protein that isn’t immediately utilized is converted to fat.

The trick, then, is to eat high-protein foods – more specifically, foods that contain high-quality protein – that furnish the amino acids your body needs without supplying excess calories. High-quality proteins are those that contain most or all of the essential amino acids, which are amino acids that cannot be synthesized within your cells and consequently must be obtained from your diet.

Certain animal foods, such as pork, eggs, milk, cheese, beef, lamb and poultry, are often called “complete” proteins, because they contain all of the eight to ten amino acids your body cannot manufacture – that is, the essential amino acids. However, most of these foods contain substantial amounts of undesirable saturated fat, and when they’re metabolized they can make it more difficult for your cells to maintain an optimal acid-base equilibrium.

Many plant-based foods are excellent protein sources, too, although you’ll need to eat several different types of plants to obtain all of the essential amino acids. That’s because many vegetable proteins contain adequate levels of most essential amino acids but may be lacking in one or two. Examples of high-quality plant proteins include whole grains (much of a grain’s protein is housed in its germ covering), legumes, nuts, seeds, soybeans and fermented soy products, brown rice, sprouts, quinoa and wheat grass. In addition to being good sources of protein, most plant foods are more “pH-friendly,” they contain healthier types of fat, and they’re usually packed with beneficial fiber.

All whole foods contain protein, so it isn’t difficult to get enough in your diet. (Humans only need about 1/3 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight daily.) It’s the source of protein that ultimately determines how healthy you are. If you’re an inveterate meat-eater, try adding more plant proteins to your diet. You’ll not only feel better in the long run; you’ll make mealtimes more interesting!

Here's to your wellness,


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