My motto when it comes to food is, variety and moderation. Different foods provide different essential nutrients used to power our bodies, and levels of those nutrients also differ between foods. When it comes to the macro nutrients, not all foods are created equal, and that is even more true when it comes to micronutrients.
Let’s take protein for example. Protein is one of the macronutrients, and it makes up 20% of our bodies. Our bodies don’t store protein, so we rely on our diet to get it. When protein is eaten, it is broken down into amino acids. Amino acids are used in nearly every single metabolic process in our body. Sound important? It is.
In total, there are roughly 20 amino acids, some of which are essential, and the others are non-essential. Our bodies can make non-essential amino acids, but we rely on food for the essential amino acids. Animal proteins are similar to the ones found in the human body which is why they are considered complete protein sources; they contain all of the essential amino acids that our bodies need to function optimally. Plant proteins are considered incomplete because they lack one or more of the essential amino acids.
So what exactly is lacking in plant proteins? By and large, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acid DHA, Heme-iron, and Zinc are found in animal proteins, so if you follow a completely plant-based diet, odds are, you’re deficient in these nutrients. The flip side of animal proteins are the potential health risks associated with red meat. Studies have shown that consumption of red meat, a high-quality protein source, can lead to potential of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and early death. However, research indicates that the issue isn’t with red meat – it’s the processed red meat that can get us into trouble. Poultry, fish, and lower fat dairy contain complete protein, essential and non-essential amino acids, and are also sources of vital nutrients. In fact, consumption of these foods can actually help lower our risk of heart disease, promote brain health, and increase muscle mass while helping us lose unhealthy weight.
So what’s the moral of the story? Variety and moderation. Be aware of what your body requires to function optimally and eat accordingly. A mix of plant-based proteins and animal proteins is ideal to meet our daily nutritional needs, however if you follow an exclusively plant-based diet, be sure to research foods that have all of the amino acids that your body needs, knowing that not all proteins are created the same. Additionally, certain amino acids are measurable through the lab tests that I offer to my patients. With that test, I am able to measure your levels of Asparagine, Glutamine, and Serine in addition to 12 vitamins, 6 minerals, 6 antioxidants, 3 metabolites, and 1 fatty acid. If you’re interested in getting your micronutrients measured, contact me to set up a consultation.
Your heart is the greatest healer of your life. And your soul is the heart of your life. Let’s start living, folks. Today starts now. Until we meet again, this is Dr. Higgins saying, good bye.