All About Protein
Protein molecules also make up certain enzymes and hormones and serve as important regulators in your body. They help maintain your blood pressure, blood sugar level, and your metabolism.
Protein is the most complex group of substances known to science. It is made up of smaller molecules called amino acids. Your body needs a total of 22 different amino acids to form all of its necessary protein. Your cells can make many of them, but 8 of them can be obtained only through the food you eat. These 8 are called the essential amino acids. They are tryptophan, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine, leucine, and isoleucine.
Most protein foods of animal origin such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, and milk, contain all of the essential amino acids and are therefore called complete proteins. Proteins found in vegetables are usually lacking one or more of the essential amino acids, so they are called incomplete proteins. However, you can combine 2 incomplete vegetable proteins to make a very high quality complete protein.
Different sources of protein:
Fish is a very high quality protein. In contrast to the fat found in animal flesh, the oil found in fish has some beneficial effects for humans. Fish oil helps keep blood cholesterol levels low, resulting in fewer heart attacks.
The protein in the flesh of white fish such as perch, cod, or haddock is a better quality than the flesh of catfish who eat garbage off the bottom. Catfish and shellfish are scavengers, and shellfish in particular hold quite a lot of toxicity in their flesh. A very convenient way to enjoy fish is right out of the can. Canned tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines are all good sources of protein.
Eggs contain a high-quality complete protein. For years, the protein in eggs has been used as the standard against which to measure the quality of other protein sources. Eggs are a good food that can be safely eaten in reasonable amounts by most healthy people. A great deal of concern has been expressed about the cholesterol contained in eggs, but eggs also contain lecithin, which helps to prevent fats from accumulating on the walls of the arteries.
A study revealed that some people who eat many eggs show an increase in blood cholesterol, while most people are unaffected. If you are sensitive to the cholesterol in egg yolks, you may substitute 2 egg whites for each egg. A large egg contains 6 grams of protein and 80 calories.
Milk is a complete protein and can be a valuable part of a balanced diet. Milk combines easily with many other foods. Any vegetable protein can be made complete when combined with milk. One cup of skim milk contains 8 grams of protein and just 90 calories.
There are many kinds of cheese, most of which are high in protein, and many of which are fairly high in fat. People who have difficulty digesting milk, usually do not have a problem with cheese.
The hard cheeses such as cheddar, mozzarella, and American processed cheese are the most commonly known. These average about 7 grams of protein per ounce and about 100 calories.
Cottage cheese is very high in protein and low in calories. One-half cup of fat free cottage cheese contains 14 grams of protein, and one-third cup of regular cottage cheese contains 9 grams of protein.
Yogurt and buttermilk-
Yogurt and buttermilk are made from milk that has been cultured with good bacteria. These dairy products have al the nutritive value of milk and are easier to digest. Some bacteria such as acidophilus, lactobacillus, and others found in yogurt and buttermilk are beneficial to your digestive system. They help your body make important vitamins, principally vitamin k, as well as some of the B-complex vitamins. These good bacteria are important in fighting certain infections as well as in helping to maintain proper elimination.
Three major categories of vegetable proteins:
- 1. Legumes
- 2. Grains
- 3. Nuts and Seeds
- 1. Combine Legumes with grains
- 2. Combine nuts or seeds with legumes or grains
- 3. Combine animal products with any vegetable product
- 4. Add a small amount of meat to a meal of vegetables
One of the most popular combinations of vegetable proteins is using legumes with grains. Legumes are plants whose seeds grow in pods such as peas, beans, and peanuts. When the pods of peas or beans are young and immature, they are especially high in vitamin A and iron. As they mature, however, their protein value increases substantially. Grains include rice, wheat, corn, rye and others. The very amino acids that are missing in beans are found in abundance in grains.
Combining Nuts and seeds with Legumes or Grains
Even in small amounts, nuts and seeds can be used to add a lot of nutrition, flavor, and a chewy texture. All nuts and seeds are high in fat, but these are mostly unsaturated. Nuts are generally lower in protein and higher in fat than seeds.
When you eat the seeds of a plant you usually get a good amount of protein, as compared to eating the leaves or stem. Nuts and seeds have an excellent quality protein, however, to make a complete vegetable protein food, they should be eaten with legumes or grains.
Pumpkin or squash seeds are the highest in protein of all commonly eaten seeds. Sunflower seeds are second highest in protein. These are the most nutritious eaten raw. Flaxseeds and sesame seeds are high in protein and also a good source of calcium.
Walnuts, almonds and cashews are the highest in protein of the commonly eaten nuts. Brazil nuts, pecans, filberts, and hazelnuts are higher in fat and have less protein proportionately. Coconut is lower in protein and higher in saturated fat than most other nuts.
Combing animal products with vegetables
It is important to remember that animal products such as eggs, milk, and cheese, are complete proteins. Not only are milk, eggs, and cheese particularly rich in three of the essential amino acids (tryptophan, lysine, and methionine), but it is also a fact that most grains and vegetables have little or none of these three essential proteins. If you eat a meal that includes milk, eggs, or cheese, with grains or vegetables, your body gets the benefit of not only the proteins that are already complete, but it uses the extra amino acids to fill in the missing elements of the incomplete vegetable proteins.
Combing meat with vegetables
A small amount of meat combined with vegetables or whole-grain foods also gives good, economical protein meals that are lower in saturated fat than a meal centered around a large amount of meat.
There are two main advantages of eating vegetable proteins on a regular basis. The first being nutrition. You get complete protein in a form that is high in fiber and low in fat. The second advantage is economy. Using average grocery store prices, a serving of cooked meat will cost 2 or 3 times as much as a serving of beans and rice.
Although soybeans seem to be the most gas producing when cooked whole, they do not present a problem when used as soy flour in baking. If your recipe calls for one cup of whole-wheat flour, add in 1 tablespoon of soy flour and you will substantially increase the protein value of the food.
Soy protein powder is the main ingredient of many instant protein drinks. It is made from ground, roasted soybeans. This is especially handy for times when your in a hurry and need a quick nutritious drink.
Next time you are in a grocery store, notice the interesting selection of dried beans. There are usually a dozen or more different varieties. Beans provide many nutrients: Protein, complex carbs, vitamins, iron, and calcium. One-half cup of cooked dried beans contains about 7 grams of protein. They also contain a special kind of soluble fiber that helps carry excess cholesterol out of the body. Best of all, beans contain no saturated fat, and also help to stabilize blood sugar.
- Lentils - Have the most protein of all beans except soybeans.
- Garbanzos - High in protein, iron, fiber, and calcium.
- Soybeans - Contain over twice as much protein as other beans.
- Black beans - My favorite combined with brown rice to make a complete protein. Very high in complex carbs also.