The Healing Power of Food: Conscious Eating
by Julianne Koritz, a registered, licensed dietitian. – Learn how food can heal your body by strengthening your immune system and increasing your energy level – create a plan for boosting your immune system. Lessons address common health complaints and offer up remedies for issues such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, memory loss, joint pain, depression, anger, and weigh loss. Make food your best friend to energize, nourish and heal your body!
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Proteins: Too Much or Little of a Good Thing?
By Julianne Koritz, Registered, Licensed Dietitian
The typical Western diet consists of some type of meat product every day and sometimes three times a day. An overindulgence of animal protein may lead to some chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Proteins form the major cellular structure, are necessary for biochemical reactions and important regulator of gene expressions. Researchers have found that humans need only 0.8 grams of high quality protein per kilogram of body weight (800 mg/kg body weight).
Proteins are mainly found in meats, poultry, fish, pork, beef, eggs, beans, soy, cheese and peanuts. Whole wheat breads, cereals, rice and pastas are poor protein sources unless combined with a vegetable protein source such as corn, beans, lentils and peas. This is why vegetarians need to include grains and beans in the same meal. Fruits have a minimal amount of protein, as do most vegetables.
Protein is found in all foods on different chemical levels. The combination of amino acids in a food determines the quality of its protein. There are 22 different amino acids that make up the proteins necessary to carry on vital body functions. Eight amino acids are classified as essential, meaning your body cannot produce them and requires them from a food source.
Advice for Transitioning towards a Meatless Diet
If you are transitioning to a meatless diet, you'll want to ensure you are getting enough protein, calcium, Vitamin B-12, and Vitamin D. For the sake of today's discussion, we'll just focus on protein. Lack of protein can cause anemia, which can cause you to be tired and lack energy. It may also compromise your immune system.
Seitan (derived from wheat) is a popular meat substitute for many vegetarian but is not a complete protein unless combined with a vegetable or legume. In the past, it was thought that these complementary proteins needed to be eaten at the same meal for your body to use them together. Now studies show that your body can combine complementary proteins that are eaten within the same day.
Cheese is a complete protein source but it does pair well with beans or grains but use in moderation to control the calorie content of the meal. You can combine beans with rice or pasta to make a complete protein (this includes the 8 essential amino acids). Again, to control the calorie content don't always smoother that burrito with cheese. Use spices to add flavor.
Meatless Sources of Protein (single servings)
Good Protein Sources These are good because they are complete protein sources
Fair Protein Sources These are fair because they are incomplete protein sources. Notice most of these are grains.
Poor Protein Sources
Chick peas (200g or 7oz)
Seitan - wheat meat (4 oz) - mix with vegetables or legume!
Cashew nuts (serving of 10)
Brown rice (200g or 7oz)
Almonds (serving of 10)
Broccoli (100g or 3½oz)
Cream, double (20g or 2/3oz)
Baked beans (225g or 8oz)
Vegetables - protein can vary (1 cup)
Tofu (140g or 5oz)
Bread, (1 slice)
Cow's milk (½ pint)
Potatoes (200g or 7oz)
Sugar or syrup
Lentils (120g or 4¼oz)
Porridge (160g or 6oz)
Soy milk (½ pint)
Muesli (60g or 2¼oz)
Peanuts (30g or 1oz)
Hard cheese (30g or 1oz)
Proteins are necessary for all bodily functions.
In the body, proteins repair tissues at the cellular level, aid in transportation of fats, and regulate immune levels.
Protein supplements do not have all the amino acids that meats or the combination of whole grains, bean and vegetables have. One ounce of meat has over 2000 amino acids, while one cup of protein powder has only 200 amino acids.
Why do athletes believe they need to consume protein powder products?
Many athletes believe protein builds muscle. They think, "If I eat enough protein then my muscles will become bigger." But it's not that simple. Your body needs protein to repair and build tissues, but exercise increases muscle size not dietary proteins. The diet must be a synergy of many different nutrients in order for the human body to perform all the necessary metabolic functions.
Who needs a protein supplement?
Only people who exercise four or more hours a day or have very poor health should add protein supplements. If you live in a country where meat and a variety of foods are easily available, there is no need for supplements. If you are trying to increase your weight and muscle strength, your extra calories should come from a variety of foods, not just powdered supplements with limited nutrients.
What about "high protein - low carb" diets?
The comeback of the "high protein - low carb" ketogenic diet in America has emerged as a response to our obesity problem. If you follow a high protein diet, you lose weight because these diets rid your body of muscle mass due to the loss of carbohydrates (glycogen) in the diet. It has been proven that just making a change in the diet will cause a weight loss or gain. It all boils down to the quality and quantity of the total diet.
However, muscle tissue weighs more than fat tissue, so when you lose weight on these diets, first you are actually losing muscle mass. As you continue on the diet, your body metabolism changes as does your portion of fat to muscle ratio. If you go off the diet, you regain the weight since your body starts to store glycogen in your muscles once again. Unless you are exercising every day to maintain your muscle mass, the weight regained will not be muscle tissue.
So, how much protein do YOU need to sustain life, repair tissues, fight infection and carry on daily metabolism? I invite you to learn how by enrolling in my nutrition course: The Healing Power of Food: Conscious Eating.
To your health,
Julianne Kortiz, RD
P.S. Remember to drink at least 2 cups of water every 4 hours.