Protein, its an essential part of our lives. Every person needs protein to live! But what is protein really and how do I get it?

Well there are a couple of answers as to how to get  protein, but for what it is, there is only one. Protein is made of of amino acids, protein as a whole is a large molecule that hold the smaller molecules of the amino acids. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of the protein found in our bodies. Now there are 20 types of amino acids and the body can produce 10 of its 20 amino acids. So where do you get the other 10 amino acids? These are called essential amino acids and must be taken in from certain foods. To get these other 10 amino acids you must eat a variety of foods because each piece has its own unique properties.

Why do we need protein? Protein is basically the main thing in our bodies. They are the enzymes that break down foods and create key chemical reactions in our body.  Skin, hair, muscles, organs, even  hemoglobin in your blood are all things that use protein to rebuild themselves, and the list is even bigger than that. So as you can see, its an essential part of living and helping your body function properly.

So where do we get this essential item from? This is where it may vary for some people. People who are omnivores, people that eat meat and plant foods, can get it from just about anywhere. Omnivores get it mainly from meats including beef, lamb, pork, chicken, etc. By eating meat people are getting “complete” protein, which means that it has all 22 amino acids in it. People who decide not to eat meat, veterinarians/vegans can get their protein from plant based foods.

Since plant based protein foods are not widely discussed we are going to go into a little more detail on those rather than meat based proteins. So, what plant based products do vegetarians eat? They eat a wide variety of foods from whole-grains to fruits and veggies to nuts and seeds. They even eat products that are made with these foods such as tofu or veggie protein replacements.

A “complete” protein in the vegetarian diet is the grain quinoa. (Kind of looks like cous-cous.) Most whole grains, fruits and veggies are not complete protein by themselves, but DO contain protein. So by eating a variety of these foods the body forms an amino acid “pool” throughout the day an your body uses these amino acids to make up complete protein. So the myth about not getting enough protein without eating meat, is just that, a myth. Many nutritionists stand by that if you eat a wide variety of plant based foods and eating enough calories it is most likely that you will not be protein deficient.

Protein deficiency came in to play when reports were coming in from other countries. Protein deficiency is prominent in countries where food shortages are or where there are high cases of malnutrition and is rare in countries  that are plentiful in food.

On the reverse end of it there can be problems that result from too much protein. Because animal proteins are complete protein, you can end up eating too much. The average American eats 100-120 grams of protein today from mainly animal products. Mix that with a sedentary lifestyle and you’ve got a formula perfect for disaster.  depending on your weight size and if you are male or female the average protein need is only about 30-60 grams of protein per day.  By eating too much protein you can injure your kidneys making them struggle to function properly and because of this you could end up in the long run having kidney failure or premature aging. It damages the kidney by causing deterioration of the nephrons which is what the kidneys use to filter out all the bad crap in your body. You could also develop kidney stones, cause osteoporosis, acid reflux, obesity, plaque build-up, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, bad breath and even an increased risk in cancer!

Needless to day everything in moderation. To give you an outlook of how much protein is in a variety of nuts, check out the chart below!