TOPIC · HEALTH - PROTEIN - EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

Every week I am posting about  everything you need to know about hormones. This weeks topic is about Protein.

Did you know – proteins

  • The word protein comes from the Greek ‘protos’ which means ‘first’
  • Proteins are known as the building blocks of life 
  • Protein exists in every single cell in our body. 
  • Without protein, life would not exist.
  • Approximately one-fifth of our body weight is protein, second to water
  • Everything you see when you look the mirror is made of protein.
  • Proteins are composed of small units called amino acids, just like carbohydrates are composed of glucose and other sugars and fats are composed of fatty acids
  • The body uses 22 amino acids in thousands of different combinations to create its proteins needed for form and function, such as body growth and repair
  • According to research there are over 150,000 different combinations, ie. the body produces more than 150,000 different proteins.
  • Proteins are found i many biological structures such as genes, red and white blood cells, immune cells, hormones and enzymes, neurotransmitters, muscle cells, bone cells, hair, skin and nails, etc. 
  • The ‘recipes’ for these amino acids are coded in your DNA
  • The recipes for 9 amino acids are ‘missing’ which means they must be obtained from the foods we eat
  • Each gram of protein provides 4 calories, just like carbohydrate.
  • We need to eat protein every day as the body can’t store protein
  • According to research, protein is the most satiating macro nutrient, which helps explain why high-protein diets help promote weight loss and weight-loss maintenance

Meet Sally and get to know all about protein

Intro for protein week

Where does the body get its amino acids?

How much protein do we need to eat every day?

Are there any side effects of high protein diets?

The goods and the bads about red meat

Types of Body Proteins

Science shows that the body produces approx. 150,000 different proteins all of which have specific functions, with one thing in common supporting body form and function

Type

Function

Examples

Structural

Gives form and structure to cells and tissue, such as muscle and bone tissue

Collagen

Elastin

Enzymes

Catalyse biological reactions, changing/breaking down one molecule to another

Digestive enzymes

Lipase

Amylase

Trypsin

Receptors on cell membranes

Docking stations for molecules and the transmission signals

Insulin Receptor

Estrogen Alpha and Beta Receptors

Various

Specific

Antibodies, 

DNA/RNA, 

Neurotransmitters,

Blood cells,

Hormones 

How does the body make its proteins?

The body makes its 150,000 proteins from amino acids, so the question we really should be asking is ‘where does the body get its amino acids?’

Amino acids are obtained from:

  • foods
  • the amino acid pool

Amino Acid Pool

The body can’t store protein but every cell has an amino acid pool which in principle functions as a storage facility for the cells need to make proteins or increase energy production.

Every cell has a specific job to do and thereby a specific collection of amino acids which relate to building the proteins it needs to carry out its job.

  • Also called the Nitrogen pool
  • A ‘collection’ of amino acids available in every cell
  • The collection is a combination of dietary sources and the degradation of proteins
  • The body is constantly making proteins, uses them then breaking them back down to the single amino acids, which then go in the pool
  • So there is this constant turnover
  • At any given time some protein is constantly being made while other protein is being degraded
  • Eg. liver and blood proteins have a half-life of approx. 180 days while enzymes and hormones may be recycled in a matter of minutes or hours
  • Some of the amino acids are broken down to produce the energy molecule ATP and the waste product ammonia which contains nitrogen. Ammonia is converted to urea and excreted from the body
  • The levels of urea/nitrogen in urine represents a drain on the amino acid pool which can be used in the calculation of how much protein should be obtained from the diet
  • Higher levels can indicate tissue breakdown
  • Lower levels can indicate the formation of protein
  • The liver regulates the blood level of amino acids based on tissue needs and can also convert excess amino acids to carbohydrates for energy production.

Amino acids / Proteins from foods

  • In principle the body doesn’t care where the amino acids come from ie. if they are produced in the body or obtained through the foods is unimportant. 
  • Amino acids are found in the proteins found in meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, egg, dairy products, nuts, beans, lentils, soya, grains, etc.
  • What is most important is the 8 -10 essential amino acids, they MUST come through the diet as the body can’t produce these
  • Animal foods contain all the essential amino acids and are classified as complete proteins
  • Plant foods only contain some of the 8, apart from soya and are classified as incomplete proteins
  • Vegetarians and especially Vegans should note that grains, seeds, pulses and nuts are incomplete proteins and should ensure that minimum one meal per day is comprised of all 8 essential amino acids. 
  • Plant proteins can be difficult for the body to digest due to fibre and other anti-nutrients which are there to protect the plant from being ‘eaten’. This may lead to amino acid deficiency. Processing these foods is essential, avoiding raw plant foods as much as possible 
  • Complete proteins are found in meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, egg and dairy. 
  • Incomplete proteins are found in nuts, grains, pulses, seeds
  • In generally it is recommended to eat some food protein in every meal to top up the amino acid pool, as the body can’t store protein
  • When we eat protein foods such as a piece of beef the digestive system breaks down the ‘cow’ proteins to the single amino acids which are then absorbed. These amino acids are then linked together to form ‘human’ proteins using the ’recipes’ found in the DNA. 

Essential Amino acids – must be obtained through the diet

Name

Found in these Foods

Arginine

(sometimes essential)

Important for Nitric Oxide and blood pressure

Cottage cheese, ricotta, milk, yogurt, whey protein, bacon, ham, chicken/turkey white meat, pheasant, lobster, salmon, tuna, prawns, Spirulina, wheat germ, buckwheat, oats, peanuts, coconut, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, pine seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chick peas

Histidine

Important for histamine

Seaweed, Spirulina, Kidney Beans, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds, Soya, Egg, Cottage cheese, Tuna, Cod, Chicken, Turkey, Pork, Lamb, Beef

Isoleucine

Important for muscle tissue

Egg, Soya, Turkey, Kelp, Lamb, Chicken, Game, Tuna, Cottage cheese, Cod, Spirulina, Water cress, Cabbage, Spinach

Leucine

Important for muscle tissue

Egg, Soya, Spirulina, Game, Tuna, Cod, Turkey, Water cress, Pumpkin leaves,

Valine

Important for muscle tissue

Egg, Spirulina, Soya, Water cress, Turkey, Game, Tuna, Cod, Lamb

Lysine

Important for Collagen

Chicken, Turkey, Tuna, Cod, Pumpkin seeds, Water cress, Spirulina, Parsley, Soya, Egg, Cottage cheese

Methionine

Important for liver function

Egg, Tuna, Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Spirulina, Sesame seeds, Soya, Cottage cheese

Phenylalanine

Important for Dopamine

Pork, Beef, Lamb, Turkey, Salmon, Chicken, Spirulina, Water cress, Pumpkin leaves, Kidney Beans, Spinach, Broccoli, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds, Soya, Egg, Cottage cheese, Parmesan, Basil

Best Sources of Protein / Amino Acids

When you’re choosing high-protein foods, be sure to select healthier options. This can help lower your risk for some of the negative effects of eating a high-protein diet. 

  • grass-fed lean meats and pasture-raised poultry
  • wild fish
  • eggs from pastured hens
  • grass-fed and organic dairy
  • legumes – apart from soya are incomplete proteins and beware of the anti-nutrients 
  • nuts – are incomplete proteins and beware of the anti-nutrients 
  • whole grains – are incomplete proteins and beware of the anti-nutrients 
  • shakes and supplements are ok but whole foods in general provide better overall nutrition and should be a first choice when possible. May be made from an incomplete protein source, such as pea or rice.

NB! 

Animal Proteins 
Should be obtained from animals that are free range, pasture fed, free from antibiotics, hormones and pesticides

Plant Proteins
Should be obtained from naturally growing plants that are not GMO and pesticide free 

How much protein do we need per day?

  • A complicated area as research limited – it’s not easy evaluating how much protein is utilised in a given day
  • There’s no magic equation to calculate exactly how much protein you need
  • Body weight can be used to help determine a good range
  • Most recommendations are given in grams of protein per kilogram of body weight
  • Protein needs differ based on a variety of factors including their age, sex, weight, activity level and overall health.

Examples of Protein in Foods per gram weight

Protein is a component of food, other components are fat and carbohydrate, water, minerals and vitamins and fibres

NB! – it is not the weight of the food that indicates the amount of protein.

  • 100g Yellowfin Tuna contains 30g protein
  • 100g Anchovies contains 29g protein
  • 100g Salmon contains 27g protein
  • 100g Parmesan cheese contains 41.6g protein
  • 100g Pumpkin seeds contain 33g protein 
  • 100g Beef contains 26g protein
  • 100g Chicken contains 25 – 30g protein
  • 100g Soya beans contains 36g protein
  • 100g wheat contains 11g protein
  • 100g Almonds contains 18g protein
  • 100g Apples contain 1g protein
  • 100g Avocado contains 2g protein

What are Branched Chain Amino Acids – BCAA?

  • BCAAs are the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine, which comprise around 35% of your body’s muscle protein
  • Supplementing with BCAAs may help preserve muscle glycogen stores, which is the primary fuel for muscles and minimize protein breakdown during exercise
  • So you get more out of your gym sessions
  • Can also help enhance muscle protein recovery after your workout
  • Emerging research suggests that leucine is the star player of BCAAs when it comes to regulating genetic signaling pathways involved in muscle protein synthesis
  • Quality BCAA supplements have a higher ratio of leucine to isoleucine and valine
  • Whey protein is the best source for the complete spectrum of all three special aminos
  • Whole foods such as dairy, eggs, red meat, chicken, brown rice, soya, almonds, cashews, peanuts are also excellent sources. 

Are there any side effects of a High-Protein / HP diets?

  • Weight gain maybe after the initial weight loss – possibly due to extra muscle tissue
  • Bad breath – maybe due ketosis if the diet is also low carb
  • Constipation – maybe in some
  • Diarrhea – maybe in some
  • Dehydration – due to flushing out excess nitrogen, so drink more water
  • Kidney damage – studies suggest that this is only likely in those with pre-existing kidney problems
  • Increased cancer risk – like colon cancer, maybe also be due to the residues of hormones, pesticides, etc in commercially raised animal meats.
  • Heart disease – mostly red meats – maybe due to TMAO
  • Higher calcium excretion and lower urine pH, but science is very clear here – this is not connected with bone loss. Possibly due the higher calcium absorption generated by the higher protein intake. 

The Good and Bad about Red Meat

The Good

Red meat contains:

  • Protein
  • Thiamine B1
  • Riboflavin B2 
  • Niacin B3 
  • Vitamin B6, 
  • Vitamin B12
  • Lipoic acid – antioxidant important for energy production
  • Phosphorus  
  • Zinc  
  • Iron
  • Creatine
  • Carnitine
  • Choline
  • Vitamin D (more in organ meats) 

The Bad

High consumption of red meat increases the production of Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) which MAY be linked to heart disease, but this is still up for discussion.

TMAO is produced by gut bacteria from the Firmicutes family while the bacteria from Bacteroidetes family may have the opposite effect. 


Decrease TMAO production

  • Increase Bacteriodetes bacteria by eating foods with soluble fibres – such as fruit and veggies
  • Balsamic, Olive oil and Resveratrol also are shown to manage / decrease TMAO levels
  • In short – Drink a glass of wine with your steak and use balsamic and olive oil dressing on your salad 😊


What is high consumption?

Science unclear but in general limit your consumption to 3 times a week 

Greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gases are gases in Earth’s atmosphere that trap heat. They let sunlight pass through the atmosphere, but they prevent the heat that the sunlight brings from leaving the atmosphere.


A good thing

Overall, greenhouse gases are a good thing. Without them, our planet would be too cold, and life as we know it would not exist. But scientist worry that there can be too much of a good thing, that human activities are adding too much of these gases to the atmosphere.


The main greenhouse gases are:

  • Water vapor 
  • Carbon dioxide 
  • Methane – can be increased by cows, growing rice, burning coal and natural gas
  • Ozone – natural protection layer
  • Nitrous oxide – can be increased by bacteria, power plants and plant fertilisers
  • Chlorofluorocarbons – not created in nature


Greenhouse gases and cows

  • At one point in time, cows were labelled enemy number one when it came to greenhouse gases and climate change.
  • Sadly, that label has lingered. 
  • Conventionally raised cattle are absolutely a problem, but that doesn’t mean all cattle are. 
  • It’s also important to note that while cows account for about 5% of methane production, food waste in landfills accounts for much more – approx. 16%. 
  • Cows that are free to graze on pasture are improving our ecosystems, literally from the ground up, and can improve carbon sequestration to fight climate change.


Lab ‘grown’ Meat

While many think this the solution, know this – the culture for some of these lab-grown products is foetal serum from pregnant cows!

Questions? Please don't hesitate to contact me

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