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What You Might Not Know About Protein

I believe that protein is the most misunderstood nutrient. Most people associate protein with muscle. But it is needed for so much more than building and maintaining strong muscles, that's only the beginning of our bodies’ need for protein.

Protein is needed for the building, repair, and maintenance of all of our nerves, organs, skin, nails, and hair.

Protein makes up the immunoglobulin generated by our immune systems that protects us from bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi, and other microorganisms.

Protein is the main component of our bodies’ enzymes and hormones. Without enzymes and hormones we would not last very long. They control the functioning of our organs and countless other functions in our bodies.

Protein is needed by the neurotransmitters in our brains, helping us to think clearly.

If you're a vegetarian, I’ll bet there is someone you know who thinks that you may suffer from a protein deficiency. Most people don’t understand that protein is made up of amino acids that are created from photosynthesis. In other words, all the building blocks of protein are formed when sunlight shines on plants.

We can get our protein high on the food chain by eating the animals that ate the plants. Or we can get our protein low on the food chain by eating the plants.

Plants are a much cleaner source of protein. What do I mean by cleaner source? Scientists use the word bioaccumulation to describe the build-up of toxins in the tissues of animals, including humans. Some such toxins are: PBSs, dioxin, mercury, and lead. There are numerous heavy metals and countless chemicals that easily build up in the fatty tissues of animals but not so readily in plants. I choose to get my protein low on the food chain from plant sources for many reasons, but mostly because I value my health.

what_you_might_not_know_about_protein_imageThere are 22 amino acids. Eight of them are considered essential because our bodies can't synthesize them, so we must get them in our diets. They are isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. All of these amino acids come from plants. Many common plant foods are good sources of protein, such as seeds, nuts, dark green vegetables, beans, peas, legumes, and grains.

When we eat protein, our bodies first need to break them down into amino acids before we can get any benefit from them. Then the amino acids are moved into the bloodstream and transported to the liver. Our bodies’ proteins are made up of different combinations of amino acids. Our liver puts together the right combination of amino acids for whatever protein our bodies need at that moment. If a protein that our livers are constructing requires a certain nonessential amino acid that we have not eaten, our livers will synthesize the needed amino acid from another one that we did eat. If our livers do not have the essential amino acid they need for the protein they are creating, your health can suffer as a result.

It is important to eat protein every day because our bodies cannot store amino acids in our livers for more than five days. If we go several days without consuming any protein, our livers will not have the amino acids they need to construct the proteins our bodies need. When this happens, our bodies will actually start breaking down our own muscles to get the amino acids that they need for more important functions.

We also need to make sure that the protein we consume is being broken down completely. In other words, good digestion is key. If proteins aren't broken down completely, they can get absorbed into our bloodstream and cause havoc. Undigested proteins in the bloodstream will be attacked by the immune system because they are seen as a dangerous invader. When this happens, we create a food sensitivity or allergy.

So to ensure our bodies get the amino acids they need, it is important to have a diet that is easy to digest and contains a variety of protein sources.

I recommend consuming a high quality superfood protein powder to ensure optimal amino acid intake. SUNWARRIOR has two different delicious and easily digestible protein drink mixes! I use them daily and really feel the benefits!

Craig B Sommers, ND, CN

Learn more about Dr. Craig Sommers

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