What is protein?

At least 10,000 distinct proteins make you what you are and keep you that way. Proteins are complex molecules responsible for many critical functions in the body. They do most of the work in cells and are required for the function, construction, and regulation of the body's cells and organs. Proteins consist of thousands of smaller units called amino acids attached in long chains. Twenty different types of amino acids may be combined to create a protein. The arrangement of amino acids determines each protein's unique 3-dimensional structure and its particular function. Proteins can be described according to their extensive range of functions in the body.

Since we do not store amino acids, our bodies create them in two unique ways: either from scratch or by changing others. Nine amino acids (lysine, methionine, histidine, isoleucine, threonine, tryptophan, leucine, phenylalanine, and valine) are called essential amino acids.

Protein is found throughout the body in bone, muscle, hair, skin, and virtually every other body part or tissue. It constitutes the enzymes that power many chemical reactions and the hemoglobin which carries oxygen in your bloodstream. 

 The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults receive daily no less than 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight or just more than 7 g for every 20 pounds of body fat.  National Academy of Medicine also sets a broad range for acceptable protein consumption --anywhere from 10% to 35% of calories every day. Beyond that, there is relatively little useful information on the perfect quantity of protein in the diet, or the safest goal for calories contributed by protein.

Many advantages exist for eating more plant-based sources of protein. It's excellent for your well-being, the environment and is economical. Many plant-based proteins are also extremely shelf-stable, meaning they will last a while in your kitchen too.

See: Paleo protein powder benefits & side effects

See: Ayurveda to prevent diabetes

What are complete proteins?

Going back to the basics, protein is made up of 20 amino acids; 11 of those amino acids are created by the human body. We have to find the remaining nine essential amino acids in the foods we consume for good health. When a food includes all nine of those amino acids, it's called a "complete protein."

Which foods are complete proteins? Animal proteins are complete, such as meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs. There are also some plant-based sources of complete protein, such as soybeans, quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed, and blue-green algae. Plant-based sources of protein might not contain as much protein per serving as animal products.

Experts note that you don't need to get complete protein with every meal, but eat a variety of foods in your entire day. If you are vegan or vegetarian or restrict the portions of animal products you consume, you can combine incomplete, plant-based proteins to fulfill your body's requirements.

It's essential to be aware that millions of people globally, particularly young children, do not get enough protein because of food insecurity. The effects of protein malnutrition and deficiency range in seriousness from growth failure and loss of muscle mass to diminished immunity, weakening of the heart and respiratory system, and passing.

However, it is unusual for healthy adults in the U.S. and most other developed nations to have a deficiency since there's plenty of plant and plant foods full of nourishment. In actuality, many in the U.S. are consuming more than enough protein, mainly from animal-based foods.

When we eat foods that have protein, we also eat everything that comes together with it, the various fats, fiber, sodium, and much more. It is this package that's very likely to generate a difference in health.

See: Eggs, Soybeans, and Corn - Good or Bad for Hypercholesterolemia

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Research on protein and human health

Available evidence indicates that it is the origin of protein vs. the total amount of protein, that probably makes a difference to our health. The evidence-based takeaway is that eating healthy protein sources such as beans, nuts, fish, or poultry instead of red meat and processed meat may diminish the risk of many diseases and premature death.

Eating plant-based protein sources even just a few times a week can greatly benefit your health and the environment.

There are many benefits of eating more plant-based protein

- Nutrients rich diet: Eating plants means more veggies packed with fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. They are among the healthiest foods we can eat.

- Reducing saturated fat: There is less saturated fat intake from red meat and skin-on poultry, and increasing fiber consumption found in several plant-based protein sources.

Decreasing saturated fat consumption and increasing fiber consumption has shown beneficial for: reducing total cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, raising HDL (or "good" cholesterol), and decreasing LDL (or "bad" cholesterol). In summary, it is super heart-healthy.

- Good for the environment: Production of animal-based foods will have higher GHG emissions than generating plant-based foods and dairy.

See: Mediterranean Chickpea Chopped Salad with Quinoa and Avocado

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Foods good for Protein

These plant-based protein sources foods will last quite a while in your kitchen and are super flexible. If you run out of fish and meat into your freezer, these are so good to have available. These foods are good sources of plant-based protein. They have different benefits and methods to use them.

Quinoa: Quinoa is a grain that is a fantastic source of both fiber and protein. Quinoa seems much like couscous but is far more nutritious. Full of nutrients such as iron, fiber, magnesium, and manganese, quinoa is a great substitute for rice, and it is versatile enough to make sandwiches, fritters, biscuits, and breakfast casseroles.

You can purchase it dried and just cook on the stove or purchase frozen versions, which may be produced in a few minutes in the microwave. There are in white, red, rainbow, varieties and all are terrific.

- Lentils: Lentils are considered a legume. There is also an excellent source of fiber and protein, meaning they will make any meal filling. Lentils are high in complex carbohydrates and fiber while low in calories and fat. Their high protein content makes lentils a great alternative for those looking to boost their protein intake. They are naturally fermented, making them a delicious staple in a gluten-free kitchen. Their exceptionally low glycemic index (low GI) values and resistant starch content make them suitable for a diabetic diet. When coupled with a whole grain, lentils offer the identical excellent protein as meat! Lentils are a great source of protein.

- Black beans and rice: This is among the easiest, cheapest, and vegan-est foods in existence is also among the best protein sources around. Most beans can be high in lysine and low in methionine, while rice (both brown and white) is high in methionine and low in lysine. The combination gives you the right answer. Subbing lentils or chickpeas for legumes produce an identical effect. Nutritionally, there is no difference between dried or canned beans as they are both excellent. If you're concerned about the salt in the canned type, simply wash them off -- which washes off the sodium.

- Buckwheat: Buckwheat is not a sort of wheat whatsoever but a relative of rhubarb. Buckwheat is crazy healthy: Several studies have shown that it might decrease blood pressure, lower blood glucose, and control blood sugar levels.

- Chickpeas: Chickpeas are rich in fiber, protein and make an easy meal. 

- Tofu: Tofu is made from soybeans that are pressed into cubes is that will soak up any flavor you add to it. If you cook it, be certain that you drain the water from lining the tofu with paper towels on a plate and putting a large object on top. Unless you intend to sew it to get a recipe, then I suggest buying extra-firm tofu.

- Tempeh: When you haven't heard of or tried tempeh, it is a vegan source of protein made from fermented soybeans and whole grains. It's a nuttier taste than tofu but will also soak up quite much of any flavor you add to it. Since it is made from whole grains, additionally, it has a fantastic amount of fiber too! Try it with teriyaki sauce, and then add it to a stir fry.

- Veggie burgers: Veggie burgers are fantastic as you can purchase them frozen, and they will last in your freezer for months. There are so many unique out there.

- Peanut butter sandwich: Each time legumes such as beans, lentils, and peanuts have been combined with grains such as wheat and corn, a complete protein is born. Peanut butter on whole-wheat bread is an easy snack that, although pretty high in carbs, provides a heaping dose of all of the essential amino acids and a good deal of healthy fats to boot. The oil and sugar added to the more traditional brands are super insignificant and will not impact your health in general.

Soy: Soy is a complete protein and completely deserves its status as the go-to meat replacement. Tofu is possibly the best-known soy product. If protein is a concern, it is important to pick the firmest tofu accessible -- the firmer the tofu, the greater its protein content. Refrigerated soy milk will last approximately ten days. Soy milk purchased in the pantry aisle of the supermarket will last up to 1 month. If you do not drink regular milk (most adults lose the enzyme -- lactase -- needed to digest plain cow's milk as we age!), soy milk is an excellent option. Use it to make oatmeal, or just have it with a bowl of cereal.

Whole-grain cereal: Whole grain cereals are also a fairly good source of protein, along with the fiber they provide. Get creative and have it with greek milk yogurt, perhaps make it into peanut butter cereal bars.

- Whole wheat pasta: Whole wheat pasta is an excellent source of protein. Most whole-wheat pasta is made from merely durum wheat germ - a high protein flour. Additionally, dry pasta lasts about 1 to 2 decades. 

- Hummus and pita:  The protein is much like the protein since it lacks only the lysine. But chickpeas have loads of lysine, giving us all the more reason to tuck into that Middle Eastern basic: hummus and pita. Most other beans have a similar amino acid profile to chickpeas, so don't be afraid to experiment with hummus made from cannellini, edamame, or other types of beans. You can make it as a dip with meals or as a spread with veggie wrap -- it's a beautiful way to quickly up the protein in almost any area. Most store-bought hummus lasts at least a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

- Nuts: Nuts are a terrific way to add protein and a few healthful fats (hyperlink ) to your diet. Alternatives include peanuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts.

- Chia seeds: Chia seeds contain fiber, protein, and healthful fats, all in a tiny package. Be sure that you store them in the refrigerator, and they will last anywhere from 2 to 4 tears. 

- Nutritional yeast: Nutritional yeast essentially gives food a fun cheesy flavor if, for any reason, you do not eat cheese. Nutritional yeast contains protein and lots of B vitamins -- all in a small quantity.

- Farro: Farro is just another grain that's a fantastic supply of fiber and both. You can purchase it dry and cook it like rice  Pair farro with roasted frozen veggies and the sauce of your choice for an easy, fiber, and protein packaged meal.

See: Lentils Benefits and Nutrition

See: Ayurvedic Foods For Digestive Health

References

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2. Quorn. (2017, November) https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/knowledgebase/quorn/

3. Afshin, A., Micha, R., Khatibzadeh, S., & Mozaffarian, D. (2014, June 4). Consumption of nuts and legumes and risk of incident ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(1), 278–288 https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/100/1/278/4576571

4. Clarys, P., Deliens, T., Huybrechts, I., Deriemaeker, P., Vanaelst, B., De Keyzer, W., … Mullie, P. (2014). Comparison of nutritional quality of the vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diet. Nutrients, 6(3), 1318–1332 http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/6/3/1318/htm

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7. Bernstein AM, Sun Q, Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, Willett WC. Major dietary protein sources and risk of coronary heart disease in women. Circulation. 2010 Aug 31;122(9):876-83.

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9. Satija, A., Bhupathiraju, S. N., Spiegelman, D., Chiuve, S. E., Manson, J. E., Willett, W., ... Hu, F. B. (2017). Healthful and unhealthful plant-based diets and the risk of coronary heart disease in U.S. adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 70(4), 411–422 http://www.hivdent.org/_nutrition_/2017/411.full.pdf

10. What is a complete protein? (n.d.) https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/what-is-a-complete-protein

11. Shah, B., Newman, J., Woolf, K., Ganguzza, L., Guo, Y., Fisher, E. A., … Slater, J. (2017, November 14). Anti-inflammatory effect of whole-food plant-based vegan diet vs the American Heart Association-recommended diet in patients with coronary artery disease: The randomized EVADE CAD trial [Abstract]. Circulation, 136(Suppl 1) http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/136/Suppl_1/A23081.short

12. USDA food composition databases. (n.d.) https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/

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15. Protein intake for optimal muscle maintenance. (n.d.) https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/brochures/protein-intake-for-optimal-muscle-maintenance.pdf

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18. Fehrenbach KS, Righter AC, Santo RE. A critical examination of the available data sources for estimating meat and protein consumption in the USA. Public health nutrition. 2016 Jun;19(8):1358-67.

See: Is Peanut butter good for diabetics

See: Mindful steps to healthy eating

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