In last week’s article, we covered the problems associated with protein deficiency and listed out how much protein the average person should be eating. All proteins are not created equal, however.  How does one determine which proteins are most useful to the body?

What is Protein?

To understand why protein is so essential to our existence, one must understand what it does. Protein is a macronutrient that is made up of long chains of amino acids. It is one of the body’s major building blocks, a crucial component in muscles, skin, organs, bones, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies. As you can see, without protein, there wouldn’t be much of you leftover.

While protein deficiency has always been more common in impoverished communities of Central Africa and South Asia, it is now becoming more common in the United States. Diets high in processed, sugary foods, as well as diets lacking in animal products, can both lead to protein deficiency. In order to provide your body with everything it needs, it is important to recognize the difference between complete and incomplete proteins.

Complete vs. Incomplete Protein

Vegan Protein SourcesThe key to protein is the amino acids found within it. Your body breaks down the amino acids present in all proteins and uses them to construct new body tissues, antibodies, hormones, enzymes, and blood cells. As you can see, these are vital to your overall health. Out of 22 amino acids needed by the human body, there are 9, called essential amino acids, that cannot be manufactured in the body, so they must be obtained from food:

  • Histidine
  • Tryptophane
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Valine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucin

Complete proteins are those foods which contain all 9 of these essential amino-acids. According to nutritionist Adelle Davis,

“Since essential amino acids are supplied in greatest abundance in egg yolk, fresh milk, liver, and kidneys, these foods have the highest protein value. Proteins from muscle meats, used in roasts, steaks, and chops, are complete but contain fewer of some essential amino acids than do glandular meats and are therefore less valuable. On the whole, animal proteins, such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese, contain more essential amino acids in greater abundance than do vegetable proteins; hence they have superior value.”

Other protein sources that do not contain all of the essential amino acids are called incomplete proteins.

If you ensure that your body receives enough complete proteins, you’ll be building up strength, energy, your immune system, and even your physical appearance. Find more nutritional tips from Adelle Davis on the Living Clean blog:

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