What is it?
Protein is one of the three macro-nutrients of human health. The other two being Fats and Carbohydrates. Protein is regarded as the building block of life and is the principal element that cells are constructed of. Protein is made up of even smaller components called amino acids, just like carbohydrates are made up of glucose and other sugars.
Essential Amino Acids (to produce protein)
Like saturated fat and glucose carbohydrate, our body can produce it’s own proteins, but not all of them. There are 20 amino acids that make up human protein, but we need to eat food that provides us with 9 essential amino acids that our body can’t produce.
What foods are good protein and amino acid sources?
A diverse food intake from plant, animal and grain sources will give us the best variety and chance for our body to obtain the 9 essential and 20 overall amino acids to form protein that our body needs. However, the choice and availability of food will govern our protein intake.
Be selective in the grain products you choose for your protein. Although protein content is reasonably good in grain products, it will depend on two major factors:
- The level of processing the grain as gone through may in all likelihood compromise the protein and amino acid content of that grain. Grinding into a powder and heat treatment degrades protein and lessens its quality.
- Most grains contain gluten. Check the product and be aware of gluten sensitivity, intolerances or allergies to gluten. Although protein may be good, gluten may also be a detrimental means to an end for protein source.
Fruit and Vegetables
Although fruit and vegetables through different varieties will cover all the protein and amino acids you need, you have to be aware of choice abundance. In other words, you have to eat a lot of a wide variety to get the full quota for your body. It not only includes your greens, carrots, potatoes but also legumes such as beans, lentils and seeds to give you the best profile of amino acids and proteins. Vegetarians and Vegans will find this daunting at first and it takes time to perfect and master the food variety. Many Vegans and Vegetarians run into protein as well as vitamin and mineral deficiencies before they master the pattern of sources.
There are points of argument about health aspects of consuming high amounts of meat, but it’s generally accepted that animals products of all types, are high in protein that is absorbed easily (bio-availability) by the human digestive system. Meat (land or sea based) dairy and eggs have the highest nutrient source of protein and amino acids.
A bit of everything
The easiest way to obtain an adequate human diet is to be diverse with your food sources. Animal products and fruit and vegetable give the body its best diversity of protein, vitamins and minerals. Grains to a certain degree, with the awareness of gluten. The more natural you keep your food (less processing the better), the better your un-altered state of nutrients essential for the body’s health.
It’s generally understood that cooking food is a step in the digestion process. Cooking softens food so that it easier to chew and digest and in-turn, absorbs into the body at a better rate and content factor than eating it raw. The heating process actually helps in the unraveling of protein strings that can be used up by out body anyway (it’s called denaturing). However, don’t overcook your food. The general rule is to avoid browning or burning of food. This over cooked state of food creates and releases toxic elements that progressive exposure causes compounding harm to our body tissues (ask our coaches about more info on that one).
- Coach Stephen