Why We MUST Have Abundant COMPLETE Proteins to Stay Alive and Healthy

A protein is a very, very long and complex chain of a collection of very many smaller amino acids - smaller, but still very complex molecules. These, combined with nitrogen and other elements comprise the building blocks of the varied types of proteins we MUST have.

Our bodies are about 20-percent protein by weight and about 60-percent by water. Most of the rest of our body is composed of minerals such as calcium (esp. in your bones).


Many people are turning away from a meat / fish / poultry / diary based diet because of considerations for the environment and animals’ welfare. Some New Year’s resolutions, some weight loss concepts, some detox diets and many health claims - true or false - elevate and celebrate vegetarianism and  veganism as the only way to eat right.
Some folks expound on how meat / poultry / fish causes cancer and reduces our ability of returning to optimum health. Some claims are bang on and some, in my opinion, make the Ridiculous List.
The question should always be - where’s the science - not where’s the emotional, politically correct opinion AND ALWAYS follow the money (including scientists)!

Once on a restricted diet, more attention and creativity has to be paid to obtaining all the basic necessary nutrition, and even more so, the correct and sufficient ESSENTIAL amino acids. The more restrictive our diet, the more important the care, knowledge and attention to each meal and the amino acids becomes.
Where confusion sets in, is when an amino acid(s) is deemed to be in a food (that could be one or two or many amino acids, etc) and then this food is deemed to be containing proteins and then quaifies as a good supplier of dietary protein ... but that is simplistically incorrect.
Some foods contain A FEW amino acids that are constituent parts of what will become a complete protein molecule if the OTHER essential amino acids, can also be present in another food or is already in abundant supply in our body.
Each protein is made of a select number of amino acids strung together uniquely in a made-to-measure fashion and supplied by the basic, essential ones - essential because they can only be supplied through food, IV's or through the breakdown of bodily tissues in an emergency. An amino acid is one constituent part only of a protein.
Proteins have been shown to mitigate the side effects of prescription drugs and improve overall health by rebuilding the body on a molecular level. Amino acids have made the health news primarily by people wishing to build muscle. This is certainly an additional benefit and makes sense since amino acids are the building blocks for every tissue in our body. Not only do the proteins build muscle tissue, but they build brain tissue, skin cells, help repair your gut tissue and are an important part of your heart tissue. Everything in your body is made from proteins and their constituaent amino acids!

There’s simple science to measure each amino acid that is resident in each and every food. There is no need for disagreement - science as given us pretty exact details we can trust. There is no need therefore to "trust" claims... much better to "check-out" claims in regards to food content.
So! the amino acid content of food should not be a politically correct ballpark opinion. It is truly a measurable factoid - useable - so we can plan our health, healing, shopping and meals. If we can put people on the moon, then we can find the amount of exact amino acid content in our meals or in individual items such as broccoli or lettuce or spinach. 
So buyer beware how fanatical gurus (that own vegan selling websites and/or run vegan health retreats and who have many $'s and warehouses full of product at stake) explain away, lack of exact details as vegetarian 'uber' claims are made. 

Website after website of pro-vegetarian and pro-vegan insights proclaim that there’s enough protein in vegetables and fruits so that we don’t need to worry about protein quantity in our "preferrable" vegetarian diets. But when there are no scientific details to hold up the claims - merely sweeping moral statements (beside ads?) then one must do some homework.
An example had me gobsmacked recently while watching CNN - I'm naive enough to think they fact-check all but the politicians on that TV channel... However, a very handsome, tanned and toned fireman and his father were interviewed because they were the inspiration to President Clinton's change to a vegan diet.
Of course they also have a book to promote (My Beef with Meat)... and offered fellow firemen testimonials and crazy claims to help them do this - those dastardly claims again that people want to hear but are not based on anything other than feeling good (which any one does when in the initial stages of cleaning up one's diet, one's intestines and one's toxins).
Apparently those of us who want to know "Where is the protein?" are deemed a bit lame as vegetables such as spinach apparently have 50% protein - don't you know! This is the worst torquing of the truth I have ever heard! But book sales are good. Mission Accomplished.
Spinach is an awesome vegetable - full of significant nutrients - a good choice for everyone. It's also a good vegetable to explain my pro-vegan "check what you read" argument.
The protein in spinach is a complete protein in that it contains all nine essential amino acids (rather than just a few essentials aminos as with most other vegetables). In one cup of spinach one finds a lot of water, minerals, vitamins and fiber, and a few calories. And .1 grams of fat, 1.1 grams of carbs and .9 grams of amino acids
!all the essential ones!
Some of these essential aminos are at 50% of some of the other aminos and the protein is only as good as the complete protein it can make - so as good as the smallest quantity. So in one cup of raw packed spinach one has 50% of .9 grams of proper protein. 
For a sedentary person with a modest protein requirement, only 30 cups of this vegetable would be required per day. For a tall and busy fireman it would be double!

For someone who needs to heal, more is required, too. They serve as precursors for many biologically active molecules, such as neurotransmitters (e.g. dopamine, serotonin, GABA, epinephrine), local mediators (such as the allergy mediator histamine), regulators of gene expression and cellular signalling, the oxygen-binding molecule ‘heme‘, DNA bases called purines and physiological processes that are related to growth, maintenance, reproduction and immunity.
Our body's magic can re-configure all the amino acids into any kind of required proteins - as long as the merely NINE essential amino acids are present to work with - so therefore well represented in our meals. Eating non-essential amino acids is great - BUT THOSE ESSENTIAL ones MUST be present. 

Which vegetables MUST I include daily to get my needs for basic building blocks met? Missing these essential (hence the name essential) amino acids - or put differently, missing essential building blocks can only create building blocks as good as their weakest links.
I find this website very handy: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2626/2 It shows the ratios between fats, carbs and proteins of any food so you can keep track of those aspects (even commercial junk and specific brands). It shows the protein content itself by giving it a score to indicate the essential amino acid components and then what a cup of that vegetable actually contains - in terms of grams of protein. And the site pretty well has analysed every food known to man.

I love the comparisons some puritanical vegetarians make to replace data by relating to the strength of cows and giraffes (both herbivores). This leaves me wondering about the lions and the tigers who wouldn’t be caught dead with leafy greens in their jaws. Neither would the hyena, nipping at the heals of the vegetarian, foraging zebra. It seems mother nature creates all varieties of digestive systems - so beware of food gurus who pick the examples that suit their persuasive needs!

General Requirements for Everyone
The minimum amount of protein required for an average adult (neither a full-out construction worker nor bedridden person) who is moderately active is 1/3 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day - a teensy amount. We can coast a bit on reserves, but not for long. A toddler needs twice as much and a new born babe even more. So a 150 pound person needs 50 grams of protein per average day. 

A can of tuna contains about 30 grams of protein, just to give an example. An egg contain about 8 grams of protein. A slice of average commercial bread may contain 2 grams of protein. A cup of raw spinach has less than one gram - and by that we are calling a protein as having the full range of all ESSENTIAL amino acids. Quinoa has 9 grams per cup of cooked quinoa which contains all the essential amino acids in the right amounts.

Most animal sources (meat, dairy, eggs, seafood, etc.) provide what's called these "complete proteins" in that they contain all our essential amino acids together. 
Vegetable sources, except for a few exceptions such as spinach, are missing some or a few of the essential amino acids or all of them. For example, rice and beans are all high in some of the essential ones but not all of them. So even if you included enormous amounts of these in your diet each and every day as your main protein source, your body would be hampered in creating the proper building blocks it needs because still a few of the essential ones are in deficit. 

These are the essential amino acids that together make up a complete protein: tryptophan, lysine, methionine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, threonine, phenylalanine, histidine.
The following foods contain all of the above essential amino acids: meat and poultry, fish and shell fish, dairy, eggs, dried spirulina, seaweed and most nuts. There are small amounts in oats, seeds, lentils, grains (such as wheat and quinoa) and most beans. There is a smidgen (1% to 5%) in avocado, real chocolate, coconuts, potatoes, spinach, pineapple, bananas and dates.

Below are the Up-close and Specifics for Each Essential Amino Acid (essential in the true sense of the word).

 

The 8 or 9 essential amino acids are: tryptophan, lysine, methionine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, threonine, phenylalanine, histidine
Isoleucine, leucine, and valine have a number of duties and are also responsible for making muscles. Tyrosine, phenylalanine and tryptophan are, amongst other things, rudimentary for the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. Lysine plays many roles including an important part in absorbing and conserving calcium and in the formation of collagen.
Good news:
Spirulina and chlorella (broken cell) have all the essential amino acids and 1 cup can give you 65 grams of complete protein. This would be a staple in my diet if I were a raw vegan - daily - and I wouldn’t skimp on quality!
That’s a lot of green drinks to consume - but it can sustain you on a hyper-restricted diet!

So a raw meal of broccoli (1 cup offers 2 grams), cauliflower (1 cup offers 2 grams ), spinach (1 cup offers .5 grams), sprouted lentils (1 cup offers 7 gms but is missing tryptophan), sprouted beans (1/2 cup offers 3.5 grams), a handful of Brazil nuts (8 grams and some lysine missing) and 2 Tbsp of sesame paste made into a dipping sauce with water, salt, lemon and garlic would be almost 6 gms, would be a somewhat complete meal. Do add healthy hemp, brown rice, chia, or pea protein to shakes, smoothies, or even pancakes to make sure you are getting an extra dose of slow-burn protein.

There’s a belief that: “if you keep at least 80 percent of your calories coming from mostly complex raw carbohydrates - 10 percent from protein - and no more than 10 percent from fat, you'll pretty much automatically end up eating whole raw fruits, vegetables and a limited quantity of fats and fulfill the requirement for "fighting cancer”.
10% of your calories from fats and 80% of your calories from complex carbs would mean that you would have to eat a very peculiar diet. It would represent the approach almost similar to the one at the Gerson Clinic for the first three weeks of their initial cancer program - a diet that consisted of about 22 lbs of some fruits and many vegetables. The 22 lbs were required to keep the intake of at least some essential amino acids coming - and these are quantites with a very sedentary person in mind (completely bedridden). This massive amount of food - in the above ratio - could only be consumed through juicing, which is the basis of the Gerson diet. You can see how unrealistic this is iin daily life.

Bon Appétit!

 

Merrie Bakker

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