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November 24, 2017  |  Login
Proteins
By James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.
 

Protein is found in both plant and animal foods. The body uses protein as a fuel source and to form or repair tissues, organs, and muscles. Protein consists of enzymes and hormones and is found in every cell of the body. Amino Acids are the individual building blocks of protein. There are approximately twenty different amino acids. Ten of the amino acids are known as "essential amino acids," which means that our bodies cannot manufacture them, so it is essential that we consume them in our diets. The remaining ten nonessential amino acids can be manufactured in the body.

Debate continues among nutritionists about whether humans should consume animal protein, as compared to plant protein. We must remember that humans are omnivores, and that our digestive tracts (including our teeth) were designed to handle both animal and plant foods.

Animal protein contains complete proteins, which means that it contains all of the essential amino acids. It has a higher biological value, meaning that animal proteins are more digestible and easily utilized by the body. However, certain types of animal meat, especially the red meats, tend to be much higher in saturated fats. Another concern is that contaminants, such as hormones, antibiotics, and microbes (parasites, bacteria, virus), may be found in animal products. This is it is so important to buy organic meat products and cook them properly. Also, our fish supply has become increasingly contaminated with toxins, including heavy metals such as mercury.

Plants also contain protein that is vital to our health. One advantage of eating plants, aside from their protein content, is their fiber content. In addition, they are a valuable source of phytonutrients, from which researchers continue to discover a host of health benefits. Keep in mind that most plants are an incomplete protein source. However, this is not a problem, because a variety of combined plant foods provides all the essential amino acids. It is important to consume organic fruits and vegetables to limit the amount of pesticides and herbicides your body is exposed to. People with insulin resistance or diabetes may fare better by not having a completely vegetarian diet and often benefit from eating animal foods. Also, people who have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance must avoid most types of grains.

Quality protein sources include soy, eggs, poultry, legumes, fish, nuts, and occasional amounts of red meat. For infants, breast milk is the best source of protein.
 
 
 
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