Proteins are used for the transport of minerals and oxygen (transferrin and hemoglobin), for motion (muscle proteins), for storage (ferritin), for the genetic code (DNA) and for body structure (collagen, elastin and keratin).
Proteins are also required for blood clotting, growth and regeneration, detoxification, the immune system, cell membranes and hormones such as insulin. All enzymes are proteins. Thousands of enzymes facilitate every chemical reaction in the body. Proteins may also be converted to sugar or fat to be used for fuel.
Adequate protein helps maintain a good energy level, stabilizes blood sugar, assists adrenal and thyroid activity and helps bowel function.
One can also buy protein supplements. Regular protein powders are made from whey, soy, milk, eggs or fish protein. Hydrolyzed protein powders or liquids are predigested or broken down into amino acids for easier assimilation. Free-form amino acids are pure, individual amino acids.
Protein supplements may be very helpful at times. They are not a substitute for foods, which contain many other nutrients. Many health authorities suggest eating only fermented soy (tempeh and tofu), rather than soy protein powders. The latter are often processed left-overs from the manufacture of soy oil.
Protein can be denatured, digested, or it putrefies (rots). Denaturing is a general word that means any disorganizing of the protein structure. It may be due to the effects of cooking, chewing, acids, solvents, detergents or heavy metals such as lead or mercury. Cooking protein denatures it, but does not ruin its food value. If you cook a bean it cannot grow into a plant. However, the amino acids remain intact and usable.
Protein digestion requires mechanical chewing, followed by mixing with enzymes to break the chemical bonds. Pepsin in the stomach and trypsin and chymoptryspin from the pancreas are among the important protein-digesting enzymes.
Digestion also depends on mineral nutrition. Sodium converts to hydrochloric acid in the stomach to kill bacteria and help break down protein. Enzyme production requires zinc, which is deficient in most Americans due to our depleted soils and refined-food diets. Vegetarian diets are also lower in zinc. Today, many children are born low in zinc due to their mothers' deficiencies.
Symptoms of low zinc can include stretch marks, white spots on the fingernails, skin and hair problems, growth problems, emotional problems, anorexia and recurrent infections.
If digestive enzymes are deficient, protein foods will putrefy rather than digest. Bacteria feed on them, causing bloating and foul-smelling gas. Putrefaction produces harmful chemicals called toxic amines.
For good digestion, eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Eating relaxed, enjoyable, sit-down meals will help maximize digestive enzyme production. Avoid overeating and relax after meals for at least 10 minutes to facilitate digestion.
Many people don't eat enough protein. While 60-80 grams of protein are often adequate, many people eat less than 40 grams per day. They have various reasons, not all health-related. Protein usually requires more preparation, costs more and is a heavier food to digest. Some mistakenly believe that less protein will cause weight loss, though the opposite is more often true. A glass or two of soy milk and a few nuts and seeds, for instance, is very little protein!
Toxic, stressed bodies often do not digest, absorb and synthesize proteins adequately. Many people are deficient in hydrochloric acid, which allows bacteria to live in the stomach. They are also deficient in digestive enzymes, so their protein foods putrefy and form toxic amines. Their colons are alkaline due to improper flora such as candida albicans, enhancing the absorption of toxins into the liver. Older people can be presumed deficient in digestive enzymes.
Hair tissue mineral analysis indicators including sodium/potassium inversions, slow oxidation and imbalanced phosphorus levels suggest that 50-75% of the people tested have impaired digestion. It can be a vicious cycle. Making sure one gets enough protein and taking plenty of digestive enzymes for a while if needed, can help break the cycle. Anti-candida regimens, acidophilus and healthful eating habits may also be very important. Organically grown is always best. Meat and poultry are best raised without antibiotics or added hormones. Eggs from free-ranging chickens are superior.
Some people do well on a strict vegetarian diet. However, many clients do not feel well on a limited regimen. Animal protein is a an excellent source of vitamin B12, zinc, niacin, carnitine, taurine, alpha-lipoic acid and other very essential nutrients. These are not present or less biologically available in vegetable proteins. Deficiencies can take years to develop and are not always easy to correct.
Some body types seem to need more animal protein than others. Fast oxidizers and blood types O and AB often need more animal protein. We encourage vegetarians to at least eat eggs for their quality protein, particularly the sulfur-containing amino acids. These are very important today for detoxification of toxic metals and synthetic chemicals to which we are all exposed. We cannot emphasize enough the need for the sulfur-containing amino acids found in proteins such as eggs.
Reasonable protein intake does not deplete the bones of calcium. Bone loss is due to many factors, particularly trace mineral deficiencies. The argument to avoid animal protein due to cholesterol is not as valid as once thought. Excess homocysteine, mineral deficiencies, toxic metals, infections and inflammation correlate better with heart disease. The cholesterol level depends mainly on stress, in our experience. Cholesterol is the raw material from which we make stress hormones.
Many people eat too little, rather than too much protein. Overeating on carbohydrates - snack food and junk food - is a more common problem than an excessive protein intake. Most people need 2-3 ounces of concentrated protein food at least twice, or better three times a day, along with a variety of natural foods.