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Nutrition Essentials: Why Your Body Needs (Complete) Protein


May 8, 2014 | Published by

assorted nuts

Most people, vegetarian or not, don’t eat enough protein to sustain them throughout the day. So what’s the big deal? Proteins are essential to the building, maintenance and repair of your body’s tissues such as your skin, internal organs and muscles. Proteins break down to amino acids, the building blocks of many parts of your body–even blood cells, which make up your immune system and hormones.

So you’re probably asking, “Okay then, how much do I need?” There’s no one size fits all recommendations for protein, but the more active you are the bigger your body’s demand becomes. This demand can be from mental or physical work. A person’s required protein intake also depends on sex, height, weight and exercise levels, but a normal protein intake ranges anywhere from 20 to 50 grams with each meal. In many cases, I have found that when a person eats more quality protein they start to notice improvements in energy levels, mood, sleep and their overall levels of well-being.

Incomplete vs. Complete Proteins

Proteins are made up of substances called amino acids, 22 of which are considered essential for good health. Your body can make 14, but the other 8–known as essential amino acids–must be obtained from diet and supplementation. Proteins are classified into two types: complete and incomplete. If the protein in a food provides adequate essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein. If the food does not provide all the essential amino acids, it is considered an incomplete protein.

Proteins are found in most types of food, but only a few qualify as a complete protein. Those that make the grade are most meats, eggs, and cheeses (animal-derived foods). Soybeans, quinoa, spirulina, seaweed, hempseed, amaranth and a few other non-animal derived foods are also considered complete proteins. Incomplete protein foods can be combined to include all essential amino acids, forming a complete protein. Some examples are rice and beans, milk and wheat cereal, and corn and beans.

Sources of Protein

Don’t go heavy on dairy. Many people who go light on meats go heavy on dairy products, especially cheese and milk. This can create more problems than benefits, especially if one has a sensitivity or intolerance to dairy products (as so many people do). If you have any allergies, consider avoiding all dairy products for some time. So how do you get your fair share of calcium? There are non-dairy foods that contain significant amounts of calcium, including spinach, broccoli, tofu, salmon, almonds, parsley, and dried figs. You do not need to depend on cow’s milk for calcium, and probably shouldn’t bother with it at all unless you can get natural, raw milk. As for yogurt products, look at the labels. Avoid the ones “enhanced” with artificial flavors or corn syrup. Low-fat dairy products tend to be packed with carbohydrates and should be avoided as well.

Avoid processed meats. Avoid most meats from the deli, especially sausages, processed meats, salami, bacon and hams. Stick to naturally cooked or raw chicken, fish, beef, bison, sheep, or goat (organic when possible).

Eat more fish. Fish can be a great source of protein and essential fatty acids. With fish, be cautious of the source. I recommend avoiding farmed fish when possible. Opt for wild caught, if available.

Be careful with unfermented soy. Soy is a healthy food when consumed in fermented form like tempeh or miso. I generally recommend avoiding soy milk, especially to those with an allergy or sensitivity, but also to those with thyroid issues. That said, a regular glass of soy milk can be beneficial for older males and menopausal women (if well tolerated). I do not believe that all unfermented soy is “poison.” I have known many people who have eaten soy protein for many years with no health concerns. Ultimately, it is YOU who decides what is right, and informed consent is the way to go.

Don’t forget the nuts and seeds. Regular servings of fresh nuts and seeds can help manage blood sugar levels throughout the day. Aim for a handful each day, and be sure to chew well. Fresh nuts are best, and my personal favorite choices are almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts and hazelnuts. Generally speaking I say avoid peanuts, and be cautious with cashews (high fat) and pistachios (high in salt).

dr eric bakkerAbout the Author: Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many YouTube videos:  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:

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