Healthy Eating. PROTEINS

Proteins form the basis of our existence, the essence of living matter. Virtually any tissue or any organ of a living organism is made of proteins. Muscles, bones, skin, internal organs, blood components and other biological fluids are made of proteins which can be considered as building blocks of a human body. 

Moreover, biologically active substances such as hormones and enzymes that regulate all chemical reactions in the body, thereby making life possible, also consist of protein molecules. 
Thus the question, do we need a protein diet? - is very much rhetorical. Naturally the answer is YES! 

To start with we should have a clear picture of what proteins, or rather the protein rich foods, we need and in what quantities. 

As complex organic compounds, proteins are composed of simpler units called amino acids.

Approximately 20 amino acids in different combinations form all known protein compounds. 

It should be stated clearly that the body cannot store proteins (as with fats and less frequently with carbohydrates). Thus, people need to consume these foods daily in sufficient quantities to establish & maintain their own protein level. 
Another important nuance is that while the body can create some amino acids others known as ‘essential amino acids' must be included in our food intake. 

Let's talk about the quantities now. Our traditional eating habits bring much more proteins than our bodies require. Many of us cannot imagine a ‘normal' dinner without a big piece of meat. In such a situation scrambled eggs for breakfast are just a "walk in the park", saying nothing about milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, corn, beans and other grain products we eat during the day! The summary is simple: we must learn to eat just enough protein foods and not to over eat.

It is believed that 15-25% of calories coming to the body should be derived from proteins, provided that the total calorie intake is not excessive. 

By the way, proteins generate two times less calories than fats - 1 gram of protein gives us about 4 calories.

Depending on the intensity of physical activity an adult needs 1.2 grams of pure proteins per 1 kg weight. It is useless to exceed this amount as all the excess proteins are not digested and not stored, moreover in some cases it may be harmful. As an example - if you eat too much protein, the body begins to lose more calcium as it is actively involved in the metabolic processes of the excess protein removal. This in turn leads to the development of osteoporosis.

On the other hand, the consumption of too little protein, also, is not good for the body. In general, rather moderate servings of protein are usually sufficient to satisfy our needs. Considering which product to choose, we need to give preference to those containing less saturated fat. Eat fish, chicken (fillet without skin and without fat is the best choice), vegetables, like beans, soya, nuts, whole grains, and try to exclude from your diet red meat and fatty dairy products.

You have to consume various proteins, both of animal and vegetable origin. Being a non-vegetarian, I appreciate the opinion of those opponents who call to avoid meat products, but vegetarians should be extra careful not to allow any deficiency of essential amino acids! This can be set off by eating soya, lentils, beans, nuts. Also those who do eat meat, should not ignore these products.

The ideal and sensible approach – is to gradually reduce the consumption of animal proteins, increasing the consumption of vegetable ones! Everybody has to decide on the best proportion 

By: Jan Filler, Dr.Med.

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