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What is "protein"?


Susan Silberstein & Marilyn Joyce (Health and Nutrition Educator & Heath Counselor) gives expert video advice on: How much protein do I need? and more...

What is "protein"?

Protein is made up of what we call amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of lean muscle tissue, and actually any muscle that you have in your body. There are 8 essential amino acids that we have to get from our diet. We get those from beans, peas, lentils, split peas, nuts and seeds. We get them from animal protein as well: fish and other wild game meat is a good source. We need amino acids from protein in order to build our bones, our teeth, our hair, our skin and our muscles. Every part of our body requires these amino acids which are the protein to build healthy cells, basically.

What are "enzymes"?

Enzymes are absolutely critical for every metabolic reaction in the body; they are the catalyst for every metabolic function. There's nothing in our body that would happen without enzymes and there are enzymes specific to everything that goes on throughout the entire body. You also do get enzymes from foods you eat, you know the raw foods. Once you cook a food or you process a food there's no more enzymes in that food, but in raw fruits and vegetables, for example, they're very high in enzymes that are necessary for digestion and assimilation of the food that you're eating. We also produce enzymes in our body. There is some research that indicates that we may only have a certain amount that we can produce in the course of our lifetime. I'm not absolutely sure about that, but if that's the case, that would be a real good reason for us to make sure that we get the enzymes also from the food we eat. In the old days, you know, a long time ago primitive man only ate things that were wild that were full of these enzymes. Today, with all our processed food, we're not getting all of those enzymes the way we should be getting them, in our diet.

How much protein do I need?

The amount of protein that's needed does depend on the physical activity of the person but in general, we are looking at about 2 ounces of protein from all sources including animal sources per adult, per day about 50 grams. And what happens when we consume too much protein, is that we put a load on our digestive organs and a load on our kidneys and we actually put a border around the cells of our body so that good nutrition and oxygen cannot get in and the waste products cannot get out.

What are the most beneficial types of protein?

Generally, the best animal sources of protein would be wild fish and the eggs of free roaming hens. That means hens that are not cooped up in a coop where their immune systems tend to be compromised. Hens that have not been treated with antibiotics, but hens that are able to run around the barn yard. Preferably, chased by a rooster. If we are looking at plant sources of protein then we are going to get them from beans and legumes and seeds and nuts and, to a certain extent, whole grains. One of our best whole grains is quinoa (keen-wah), a South American grain, that has all eight essential amino acids, or the building blocks of proteins. Now, when you eat nuts make sure that they are not roasted or toasted or salted. It's very important that we have nuts raw and that we store them in our refrigerator because nuts are high in fats and fats denature very quickly when exposed to air and heat and light. So, then them become lipid peroxides or free radicals, which are dangerous compounds that damage the DNA of all the cells in our body and tend to produce aging and cancer and cardiovascular disease, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.