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Nutrition Essentials for Feeling Good

The Power of Protein
You can influence how you feel simply by consuming the ideal quantity of protein. Made up of amino acids, protein is the building block of all bodily components, from hair and muscles to enzymes and hormones, as well as the source of neurotransmitters. The quality of a protein is determined by its balance of amino acids. Higher-quality protein is better absorbed and more efficiently utilized, so you will need less of it to be optimally nourished.

Our bodies require twenty-three different amino acids for proper function, nine of them "essential" – lysine, tryptophane, methionine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, histidine, threonine, and phenylalanine. Because our bodies cannot make them, they must be derived from our diet. We are able to manufacture the remaining amino acids, though at the cost of diverting precious materials and energy. So it's still better to ingest as large a variety of amino acids as possible, even the so-called nonessential ones.

Meat, fish, chicken, poultry, cheese, milk, and eggs are considered complete proteins, since they contain the essential amino acids and in sufficient amounts. Plants can be sources of protein, too, but the only complete one is soy. You can, however, combine plant-based proteins that are missing one or two amino acids, to create a complete protein; for example, whole grains, nuts, or seeds with a serving of beans, or rice and beans.

The quality of a protein source can be measured according to its net protein usability (NPU) – or the balance of its amino acids. The table below shows some examples of high-quality protein choices, either alone or in combination. It also shows what portion size you need to consume to get about an ounce of protein per serving. A man needs to eat the equivalent of three to four of the indicated servings, while a woman needs to eat two to three.

A typical allotment of protein for a man might therefore include an egg for breakfast, a 7-ounce salmon steak for lunch, and a serving of beans with dinner.

For a vegetarian, a typical day might include a small container of yogurt and a heaping tablespoon of seeds on an oat-based cereal for breakfast, and a 9.5-ounce serving of tofu, and vegetable stir-fry, served with either a cup of quinoa or a serving of beans with rice as part of dinner.

Vegetarians need to eat "seed" foods – that is, foods that would grow if you planted them. These include seeds, nuts, beans, lentils, peas, corn, or the germ of grains such as wheat or oat. "Flower" foods, such as broccoli or cauliflower, are also relatively rich in protein. Lentils or beans plus brown rice provide an excellent source of complete protein.

Caution: Too much protein intake encourages fat storage and can also lead to ketosis, in which muscle tissue is broken down to produce glucose for the brain. This is the principle behind the Atkins Diet which, carried beyond his suggested initial two weeks, can be unsafe. Excessive protein can also contribute to osteoporosis, kidney disease, and heart disease.

Packed with Protein; The Top 24

Food Percentage of Calories as Protein How Much for 2-4 Ounces of Protein Protein Quality (NPU)
Quinoa 16 3 1/2 oz/l cup dry weight Excellent
Tofu 40 10 oz/l packet Reasonable
Corn 4 1 lb 2 oz/3 cups cooked weight Reasonable
Brown rice 5 14 oz/3 cups cooked weight Excellent
Chickpeas 22 4 oz/0.66 cup cooked weight Reasonable
Lentils 28 3 oz/1 cup cooked weight Reasonable
Tuna,canned 61 3 oz/1 small can Excellent
Cod 60 1 1/4 oz/1 very small piece Excellent
Salmon 50 3 1/2 oz/1 very small piec Excellent
Sardines 49 3 1/2 oz/1 grilled Excellent
Chicken 63 2 1/2 oz/1 small roasted breast Excellent
Sunflower seeds 15 6 1/2 oz/1 cup Reasonable
Pumpkin seeds 21 2 1/2 oz/0.5 cup Reasonable
Cashew nuts 12 4 oz/1 cup Reasonable
Almonds 13 4 oz/1 cup Reasonable
Eggs 34 4 oz/2 medium Excellent
Yogurt, natural 22 1 lb/3 small containers Excellent
Cottage cheese 49 4 1/2 oz/1 small container Excellent
Peas, frozen 26 9 oz/2 cups Reasonable
Other beans 20 7 oz/2 cups Reasonable
Broccoli 50 1/2 oz/0.5 cup Reasonable
Spinach 49 1 1/2 oz/0.66 cup Reasonable
Lentils and rice 18 4 1/2 oz/small cup dry weight Excellent
Beans and rice 15 4 1/2oz/small cup dry weight Excellent


From NATURAL HIGHS: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good by Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford. Copyright © Hyla Cass, M.D., and Patrick Holford. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit www.penguin.com. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.

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