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The China Project

Human Protein Requirements

More about Protein

Health benefits of Nuts and Seeds

Nutrtional value of sprouts

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Proteins - How much and from where?

Read more about the following in this page.
How important is protein 
Protein requirements for Humans
Amino Acid Pool Theory
Dangers of excessive consumption
Animal vs vegetable protein - Can we get enough on vegetarian  diet
Eggs - a source of protein
Athletes, Body builders and Protein
Nuts and seeds  overview of benefits

How important is protein

A lot of importance is traditionally given to protein in our diet. "Are you getting enough protein" is something everyone seems to be worried about. If I could get a dollar for every time somebody asked me "How do you get your protein if you don't eat any animal or dairy products?", I would be a very rich man. The truth of the matter is that yes, protein is important. But so are carbohydrates. So are fats. So are vitamins, minerals and so on and so forth. Every part of the diet is important. And a deficiency (or excess) in any component will cause problems.

Human Protein requirements

How much protein do we really need? It is not an easy question to answer because there are conflicting views. But one thing is clear- slowly, everyone is recognizing that we need a lot less than what we thought we did. The US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein was over 100g per day per person not so long ago. It has been gradually reduced and currently standards are about 52g for an average male and 44g for an average female. Actually there is a huge safety margin built into these numbers  usually the actual requirements are ascertained and then doubled . This can be seen from the fact that the International standards (for the rest of the world's population) are 37g. for an average male and 29g for an average female. It is not logical that just because you are in the US you need more protein than the rest of the world.

Reportedly the original standard amino-acid profile (which are the building blocks for protein) was developed based on the protein requirements for laboratory rats. This could be one of the reasons for the high protein standards.  Have you looked at a rat lately? Rats are covered in hair - HAIR IS PROTEIN. If you are completely covered in hair you're going to require more protein. The nutritional profile of rats and humans is also very different.

Since protein is primarily a building block for the body, our needs go down once we have reached adulthood and have stopped growing. At that time protein is only required for maintenance and repair, and the body anyway recycles 70% of its proteinaceous waste so we actually need even less.   The maximum period of growth in the human lifecycle is when we are infants. And at that time we are told, "The best food is mother's milk". And pray, how much protein does mother's milk contain? Less than 2%! If nature intended that 2% of protein in our diet is how much we need at the maximum period of growth in our life, then once we grow up we need a lot less. Here is a chart that will give you an idea.

Daily Protein Requirements
Age                           *RDA
0- 6 months               2.2
6 months-1 year        2.0
1-3 years                    1.8
4-6 years                    1.5
7- 10 years                 1.2
11- 14 years               1.0
15- 18 years               0.9
19 years and older    0.8
*(in grams per kilogram [2.2 pounds] of body weight)

There are several other issues to be considered too while calculating protein requirements. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein according to U.S. government standards is 0.8 gram per kilogram (1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds) of IDEAL body weight for the adult. Ideal body weight is used in the calculation because amino acids are not needed by fat cells, only by the lean body mass. So an adult male who should weigh about 154 pounds, or 70 kilograms, requires 56 grams of protein daily. A female whose best weight is 110 pounds, or 50 kilograms, needs 40 grams a day.  But how many of us are of ideal weight? If we have too much fat on us, we need less protein that we think we do.

Amino Acid Pool Theory
Another theory you need to know about is the amino acid pool theory. Proteins are made up of amino acids and about 23 of them are known today. The body can synthesise 15 of them from other things  only 8 of them -called essential amino acids- need to be there in the food we eat. And guess which food has all these eight amino acids  fresh fruit!

It is a myth to think we need to eat protein to get protein. If that was the case, where do cows get all the protein from, which they obviously have- seeing their huge bodies and the amount of protein that is supposed to be in the milk they give. Cows get their protein from the grass they eat. Green leafy vegetables have small quantities of very high quality protein, and cows do eat a lot of grass.

The actual fact is that the protein of each animal is unique. Animal protein is different from human protein  though both are made of amino acids. If you eat animal protein, the body needs to break it up into its component amino acids and then re-assemble it as human protein. If you eat fresh fruits, you are getting the amino acids straight away and are saving the body the trouble of breaking the proteins up first.

Amino acids are present in almost all the foods we eat  even in a strawberry, in a potato, or in rice or wheat or lentils. It is very difficult for anyone who is eating three meals a day of a average  diet  and I mean normal, not a particularly healthy diet or a hygienic diet  to get a protein deficiency. Even rice and dal or roti and vegetable (common Indian dishes) give us enough protein we need. But of course if you are starving because of poverty then you will be deficient not just in protein but in all other nutrients as well.

Note: Pregnant women, lactating women and growing children need more protein than others, so make allowance for this.

Dangers of excessive Protein consumption
Everyone knows of the dangers of excessive consumption of fats  so people ask for lean meat, fish instead of red meat etc. But very few know of the dangers of eating too much protein. Large amounts of animal protein contributes to osteoporosis, and kidney problems.

High protein diets are especially taxing to the liver and kidneys. When people eat too much protein, they take in more nitrogen than they need. This places a strain on the liver and kidneys which must expel the extra nitrogen through urine.

Diets that are rich in protein, especially animal protein,(5) are known to cause people to excrete more calcium than normal through their urine(6) and increase the risk of osteoporosis. Countries with lower-protein diets have lower rates of osteoporosis and hip fractures

Even heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, high cholesterol and other debilitating diseases have been linked to excessive protein consumption  especially Animal protein which is naturally accompanied by high levels of saturated fat. Excessive amounts of saturated fat consumption in the diet have been linked to clogged arteries, low tissue oxygenation, slow metabolism, and heart and other degenerative diseases. Excess protein that is not used for building tissues or energy is converted by the liver and stored as fat in the body tissues. The links between animal protein and deteriorating health are numerous

The China Project, the world's largest study on the effects of nutrition and diet on health, carried out for over 15 years on thousands of Chinese families by Dr. T Colin Campbell, from Cornell University, is an eye-opener. It shows that as the rural chinese, who ate primarily a plant-based (vegetarian) diet with little protein had very low levels of degenerative diseases like BP, cholestrol, heart disease etc when compared to the West. However, when they urbanised themselves, and started eating more like the West does, eating more animal products  and hence more protein, they started getting the same diseases in the same percentages as their western counterparts.

The main nutritional conclusion from this study is the finding that the greater the consumption of a variety of good quality plant-based foods, the lower the risk of those diseases which are commonly found in western countries (eg., cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes). Based on these and other data, they hypothesize that 80-90% of all such diseases could be prevented before about age 90 years simply by switching to a diet based predominantly on plant-based food. Refer to the links alongside for more information.

Animal vs vegetable protein
People have been conditioned to think that they need large amounts of protein to function properly and can only get that protein from animal flesh. This is because animal protein is thought to be a "complete protein" since it has all the amino acids at high levels. Plant protein is "incomplete" since a single plant protein though it has all the essential amino acids, it may be low in 1 or 2 of them when compared with a protein from most animal sources.  So traditionally vegetable protein is considered inferior to animal protein.

This shows the dangers of so-called "scientific studies" that look at only part of the whole picture. It is true that a single vegetable protein does not contain all the amino acids you need but does any human being subsist on only ONE vegetable protein source  say only one kind of nut eg walnuts? Of course not. The fact is that different vegetable sources have different amino acid profiles and if you eat a combination of vegetable foods, say different nuts, seeds, cereals, lentils, beans etc you would get everything you need from the combination. The problem is, scientists want to see each food individually to ascertain its so called Quality so they can put a label on it. If seen in such a reductionist manner, it will naturally lead to misleading results. You cannot ignore the reality that man eats a variety of foods and gets all he needs from the combination of foods he eats and not just from one source.

Modern nutritionists, after observing populations of strict vegetarians who were healthier and lived longer than meat-eaters, now realize that all essential amino acids may be obtained from a variety of vegetables or grains eaten over a one-to-two-day period.

For two excellent articles on our requirements of protein and sufficiency of proteins in the vegan/vegetarian diet, see the links alongside.

Eggs -  a source of protein
Everyone is encouraged to eat more eggs becaue of the proteins they contain. However, remember that once eggs are cooked their proteins coagulate making them less readily available to the body. There are also several other health problems assoicated with consumption of eggs. For more details, refer to  this link

Athletes, Body Builders and Protein
Seems like everyone at the gym is doing it: filling up on protein to bulk up those biceps. But it's a misconception. Eating extra protein actually doesn't do much toward boosting your muscle mass and strength.  In fact, medical research shows that consuming too much protein -- more than 30% of your total daily caloric intake -- could actually harm your body, says protein expert Gail Butterfield, PhD, RD, director of Nutrition Studies at the Palo Alto Veterans' Administration Medical Center and nutrition lecturer at Stanford University.

She says that a diet containing excess protein can have the following adverse effects:
Adding more protein but not more calories or exercise to your diet won't help you build more muscle mass, but it may put your other bodily systems under stress.
Eating more protein and increasing total caloric intake while maintaining the same exercise level will build an equal amount of additional fat and muscle mass, according to a study published in 1992 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

So think twice when you consider sacrificing the carbohydrates for a protein-dominant diet, Butterfield says. Drastically cutting carbohydrates from your diet may force your body to fight back.  She says that's because a diet in which protein makes up more than 30% of your caloric intake causes a buildup of toxic ketones. So-called ketogenic diets can thrust your kidneys into overdrive in order to flush these ketones from your body. As your kidneys rid your body of these toxic ketones, you can lose a significant amount of water, which puts you at risk of dehydration, particularly if you exercise heavily.
That water loss often shows up on the scale as weight loss. But along with losing water, you lose muscle mass and bone calcium. The dehydration also strains your kidneys and puts stress on your heart.  And dehydration from a ketogenic diet can make you feel weak and dizzy, give you bad breath, or lead to other problems.
should come from protein.

Nuts and seeds  overview of benefits
Nuts and seeds are a good source of protein, essential fatty acids, vitamin E, minerals, amino acids and carbohydrates. For further information on the health benefits of nuts, see the links alongside

Cooked protein
When proteinaceous foods are cooked, their amino acids coagulate. This creates more work for the body to extract the amino acids. Therefore proteins, like other foods, are best consumed raw. And the problem with animal protein is, we rarely eat it raw. Except for Japanese who eat sushi (raw fish), the percentage of people who eat raw meat is very low. And almost all milk we get is pasteurised by heating it to high temperatures so that is also a problem.  The only raw protein we can get is from eating raw nuts and seeds, and sprouts.

More about nuts

The hard shells of nuts protect them from the elements and keep them fresh for extended periods of time. Once shelled however, due to oxidation, the oil in nuts and seeds can go rancid very easily. It's therefore best to buy your nuts and seeds unshelled if you can get them that way. The best way to eat nuts and seeds is to eat them raw  not fried, roasted or salted. If possible, soak them in water for 10-24 hours, starting the sprouting process, which makes the fats and proteins more digestible.

Almonds should be soaked overnight and their skins removed since they have a slightly toxic compound in them to protect them from insects. You would have to eat a huge amount of almonds with their skins to have a problem from this, but its best to remove the skin. If you are in a hurry, blanch them by dropping them into boiling water for 30 seconds. The skins will easily pop off then.

It's best to eat nuts in small quantities otherwise you'll overload your digestive system and cause gas and bloating and produce horrible smelling gases! 1-2 ounces (28 to 56 g) of nuts per day for normal adults (more for pregnant and lactating women) should suffice, in additon to the proteins we get from other sources such as cereals, lentils, vegetables etc.

Note: Peanuts are not nuts  they are beans!

Sprouts are an excellent source of protein and other nutrients.  Medicinally and nutritionally, sprouts have a long history. It has been written that the Ancient Chinese physicians recognized and prescribed sprouts for curing many disorders over 5,000 years ago. Sprouts have continued to be a main staple in the diets of Americans of Oriental descent

It is really only in the past thirty years that people  have become interested in sprouts and sprouting. During World War II considerable interest in sprouts was sparked in the United States by an article written by Dr. Clive M. McKay, Professor of Nutrition at Cornell University. Dr. McKay led off with this dramatic announcement: "Wanted! A vegetable that will grow in any climate, will rival meat in nutritive value, will mature in 3 to 5 days, may be planted any day of the year, will require neither soil nor sunshine, will rival tomatoes in Vitamin C, will be free of waste in preparation and can be cooked with little fuel and as quickly as a ... chop."

Dr. McKay was talking about soybean sprouts. He and a team of nutritionists had spent years researching the amazing properties of sprouted soybeans. They and other researchers at the universities of Pennsylvania and Minnesota, Yale and McGill have found that sprouts retain the B-complex vitamins present in the original seed, and show a big jump in Vitamin A and an almost unbelievable amount of Vitamin C over that present in unsprouted seeds. While some nutritionists point out that this high vitamin content is gained at the expense of some protein loss, the figures are impressive: an average 300 percent increase in Vitamin A and a 500 to 600 percent increase in Vitamin C. In addition, in the sprouting process starches are converted to simple sugars, thus making sprouts easily digested compared to raw nuts and seeds

For more information on the nutritional value of sprouts and how to grow them, refer to the links alongside.