Nutrition Essentials for Feeling Good
In This Article:
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.
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