Tuesday, July 24, 2012

You Complete Me

Let’s face it. Everyone needs protein. It’s one of the macronutrients our bodies can’t do without because protein supplies energy and structural components necessary for growth—including the building of muscles, new cells and tissues. Protein also increases stamina, supports a healthy weight and immune system, and fuels most of the biochemical activities of the body. Likewise, enzymes, antibodies and hormones are made primarily of protein. Additionally, proteins catalyze most of the reactions of living cells and control virtually all cellular processes.

Not all proteins are created equally, though, so make sure you choose the healthiest, most nutritious protein possible.

While we’re on the topic of protein, it’s important to note that amino acids play a major role as the building block of proteins. In fact, the chemical properties of the amino acids of proteins determine the biological activity of the protein. (Yes; amino acids are that important.)

Humans produce 10 of the 20 amino acids, but the other 10—called essential amino acids—must come from our diet. Even if you’re missing just one of the 10 essential amino acids—the ones we can’t make—the body will take protein from other areas, including muscles, to obtain the one amino acid that is needed. The truth is that amino acids are not like fats and starches that can be stored for later use; they must be supplied daily by the diet.

The 10 amino acids our bodies produce are: alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, praline, serine and tyrosine. The essential amino acids that our bodies don’t produce and need to be provided daily in the diet are: arginine (required for the young, but not adults), histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.

To be sure, you can combine incomplete proteins to create a complete protein, but in my opinion, it makes sense to go with healthy complete proteins so that there’s no guessing as to whether or not you’ve covered your bases.

I think some of the best sources of complete protein is grassfed beef or dairy products such as cheese. In fact, a 3-ounce serving of grassfed beef provides between 20 and 25 grams of protein. By being a delicious, complete protein, grassfed beef provides all of the essential amino acids the body requires to make muscle tissue, hormones, red blood cells and more.

But being a complete protein is not the only benefit that accompanies grassfed beef. Research that has spanned over 30 years indicates that grassfed beef is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA); and elevates precursors to vitamins A and E as well as important antioxidants such as glutathione (GT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD)—compared to grain-fed beef.  For a detailed research report on grassfed vs. grain-fed beef click here.

In short, healthy complete proteins complete us—and grassfed beef offers a complete protein plus so much more.