Protein Myths

amino-acidMany people are concerned about not getting enough protein in their diet. Many people believe that a high protein diet helps them lose weight. Many people believe it is necessary to supplement their diet with protein powder to get the essential amino acids. These are all myths!

High protein diets can cause kidney stones and in severe cases, kidney failure, gout, ketosis (too much acidity), heart disease, and cancer. More common problems associated with a high protein diet are constipation, osteoporosis, hypersensitivities, allergies to environmental pollutants, chemical sprays and certain food items.

Protein Facts
The human body requires 22 amino acids, of which eight are essential for adults, meaning that they must be added from outside sources. In addition, two amino acids called arginine and histadine are also considered essential for infants and small children because of their underdeveloped digestive systems, according to Sareen Gropper in “Biochemistry of Human Nutrition”. As your child grows older, histadine becomes nonessential and she/he may not need to obtain it from outside sources. Unlike fat, amino acids can’t be stored in the body for later use. Therefore, it is doubly important that you include these amino acids in your diet on a consistent basis. The essential amino acids are:

Tryptophan and Valine
These amino acids are particularly plentiful in dairy products, soybeans and soy products, nuts, meat, eggs and fish. Tryptophan is structurally the largest amino acid and is used by the body to synthesize serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood, sleep and appetite. In the body, valine is helpful in the treatment of liver and gallbladder disorders. Valine also provides energy to your body and helps in tissue repair.

Isoleucine and Leucine
In the body, leucine and isoleucine are broken down and converted to blood sugar, thereby helping the muscles recover after strenuous activity. Both amino acids are primarily energy-yielding sources for your body and enable bones and muscles to heal faster after injury. In addition, isoleucine helps regulate blood sugar levels in your body.

Phenylalanine and Threonine
Phenylalanine occurs in three forms: L-phenylalanine, D-phenylalanine and DL-phenylalanine. In the body, phenylalanine is converted to another amino acid called tyrosine and brain chemicals called epinephrine and norepinephrine. The different forms of phenylalanine may have effects in elevating mood and altering pain sensation. Threonine, needed to create other amino acids called glycine and serine that are necessary for the formation of collagen, elastin and tooth enamel, is a substance that contributes to skin, tendon and muscle flexibility. In the liver, threonine prevents fat from accumulating and helps in the stabilization of blood sugar.

Lysine and Methionine
In the body, lysine helps in production of carnitine, a nutrient that converts fatty acid into energy and helps in lowering cholesterol levels. Lysine is also helpful in the absorption of calcium and is vital in the production of antibodies, hormones and enzymes. Methionine aids in the production of an antioxidant called glutathione that fights against free radicals, damaging compounds that threaten healthy cells in your body. Methionine is also required for the synthesis of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment in red blood cells.

Food sources high in essential amino acids

Nuts and legumes such as peanuts are abundant sources of amino acids, reports Natural Health Walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews and peanuts are all rich sources of the essential amino acid L-arginine. Arginine is known to boost immune function, assist in muscle metabolism and muscle mass and enhance collagen production and bone growth. Almonds and cashews are also top sources of isoleucine, another essential amino acid that stabilizes blood sugar and increases energy. Almonds and peanuts also boast high levels of the amino acid phenylalanine, which is thought to enhance mood.

Fish of any kind is another top source of many of the amino acids, according to Natural Health Techniques. Moreover, fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring and sardines are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may have benefits in protecting against heart disease. Fish are abundant in the essential amino acids isoleucine, lysine and methionine, according to Natural Health Techniques.

Soy Protein
Soybeans and soy protein deliver high concentrations of several essential amino acids, reports Natural Health Techniques. Soy protein can be particularly important for strict vegetarians, who might not encounter some of these amino acids through their diets. Soy is rich in the essential amino acids isoleucine, lysine, methionine, tryptophan and valine, according to Natural Health Techniques.

Eggs contain plentiful amounts of amino acids and are an excellent source of protein for relatively few calories. According to Natural Health Techniques, eggs are good sources of the essential amino acids methionine, isoleucine and lysine. Health Information News adds that eggs are a good source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid involved in the production of the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter serotonin.

Amino acids are the building blocks for protein: All amino acids contain the 4 elements carbon [C], oxygen [O], hydrogen [H], and nitrogen [N].

It just happens that all 4 elements are present in air: N2 78.1%, O2 20.9%, CO2 0.03%, H2 0.00005%. With other words these 4 elements make up 98% of air, which we inhale about 25,920 times daily. Obviously we take advantage of the oxygen in the air – duh – but our body also uses the other elements to build up amino acids and consequently protein.

An organic diet of nutrient-dense food will satisfy our daily protein requirements. Nutrient-dense foods are those foods that provide substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals and relatively few calories. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense foods, while products containing added sugars, processed cereals, alcohol, and meat are not.

Peter Hinderberger, M.D., Ph.D., DIHom practices at Ruscombe. The mission of his practice is to promote optimal wellbeing by providing health care through an integrated approach, combining conventional and complementary therapies, which include Anthroposophic medicine, homeopathy, and salutogenesis.

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