Monthly Archives: March 2012

Essential Amino Acids

 

There are 9 essential amino acids which we must get from our diets because our bodies do not produce them. There are also 11 non-essential amino acids that the body produces on its own.

First, here are the 9 essential amino acids and the functions they perform in the body:

  • Histidine (carnosine prescursor, repairs tissues, metabolism)
  • Isoleucine (muscle growth, maintenance and recovery, energy production)
  • Leucine (muscle growth and maintenance, regulates blood sugar, heals injuries)
  • Lysine (precursor for carnitine, reduces cholesterol, uses fat for energy, formation of collagen/cartilage, helps the body absorb calcium, heals cold sores)
  • Methionine (breaks down fats, prevents clogged arteries, balances hormones)
  • Phenylalanine (supports alertness, mild appetite suppressant)
  • Threonine (liver function, formation of collagen, immune system function, balances mood and hormones)
  • Tryptophan (promotes sound sleep, relaxant, balances mood)
  • Valine (muscle growth and maintenance, cognitive function, circulation)
Meat is known to be the best source and is considered a “complete” protein because by itself, meat provides all 9 amino acids in abundant quantities. Clearly it is much easier to get these amino acids from meat. BUT just because a certain food isn’t a “complete” protein doesn’t mean it doesn’t provide one or more of the amino acids your body needs. From what I have read, it is still very possible to get all 9 AA’s through a vegetarian diet, as long as you are getting the proper combination of foods.
Through food combining, you can get adequate amounts of the 9 essential amino acids you need. Here are some good vegetarian sources of each of these 9 essential amino acids:

Histidine – seeds, soy, tofu, peanut flour, seaweed, kidney beans, buckwheat, cabbage, corn, cauliflower, mushrooms, potatoes, bamboo shoots, bananas, cantaloupe, French bread, Chinese yams

Isoleucine- watercress, soy, tofu, seaweed, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, kidney beans, alfalfa, spinach (raw/canned), sunflower seeds, lentils, black beans, cashews

Leucine- soybeans, lentils, seaweed, turnip greens, pumpkin leaves, watercress, kidney beans, sesame flour, sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seed

Lysine- soy, watercress, seaweed, parsley, lentils, chickpeas, navy beans, amaranth, beets, mangoes, apricots, apples, dried pears, applesauce, figs, avocados, tomatoes, tomato paste, pineapples, baked potatoes, celery, persimmon fruit, peaches, guava, watermelon, sweet potatoes, corn, Chinese cabbage, oats, bananas, leeks, endive, okra, broccoli, strawberries, tangerines, oranges, brussel sprouts, garbanzo beans, mushrooms, onions, cucumbers, oatmeal, bran cereal, wheat flakes, pistachios

Methionine- seaweed, sesame flour/seeds, sunflower seeds, soy, tofu, turnips, spinach, asparagus, zucchini, black beans, kidney beans, green peas, peanuts, popcorn, pistachios, potatoes, bean sprouts, broccoli, squash, Brazil nuts, onions, garlic

Phenylanine- seaweed, kidney beans, peanuts, pumpkin leaves, spinach, broccoli raab, Swiss chard, turnip greens, amaranth leaves, sesame flour, cottonseed flour, walnuts, hazelnuts, flax seed

Threonine- soy, watercress, cabbage, pumpkin, seaweed, spinach, turnip greens, soybeans, alfalfa sprouts, kidney beans, Daikon, peanuts, flax seed, chickpeas, cauliflower, English walnuts, almonds, green snap peas, avocados, French bread, Chinese yams, wheat germ, buckwheat noodles, rye bread, brown rice

Tryptophan-spinach, watercress, soybeans, broccoli raab, turnip greens, pumpkin leaves, asparagus, mushrooms, kidney beans, beet greens, mung beans, lettuce, mustard greens, bamboo shoots, sesame flour, chia seeds

Valine- seaweed, watercress, mushrooms, peas, pumpkin leaves, kidney beans, spinach, portabella mushrooms, broccoli raab, turnips, turnip greens, peanuts, lentils, grains

Just for reference, these amounts are the recommended daily intake for the average person (143 lb adult):

  • 1235 mg of Isoleucine
  • 2795 mg of Leucine
  • 2470 mg of Lysine
  • 1235 mg of Methionine
  • 2145 mg of Phenylalanine
  • 1300 mg of Threonine
  • 325 mg of Tryptophan
  • 1560 mg of Valine
  • 910 mg of Histidine

Non-vegans can easily get all of these amino acids through eggs/egg whites, cottage cheese, cheese, fish and other dairy products, if they eat them. However, vegans can get them through combining a variety of foods listed above.

On that note, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, it may be necessary to take a B12 supplement. This is one vitamin most people will agree that you will probably not get adequate amounts of if you do not eat meat.

Advertisements

Want More Information?

For more information on becoming a vegetarian, including a how-to guide to getting started, links to vegetarian restaurants and recipes and more, go to PETA’s website:

http://features.peta.org/VegetarianStarterKit/index.asp

Overcoming Adversity

Since I’ve been a meat eater all my life, I am well aware of the misconceptions people have about vegetarians/vegans and the criticisms they receive. They are the minorities of the food world. I would like to address some of the things meat eaters say/think about vegans, not only to help myself to overcome the questions, criticisms and weird looks, but also to expel some of the negativity towards the vegan lifestyle. Again, I am NOT a vegan but feel the need to support of what I think is a highly respectable lifestyle.

I won’t lie. When I first thought of vegans, I would picture smelly hippies with long, scraggly hair imbedded under a Bob Marley hat with colorful beads around their necks. And I guess some of them are. But the truth is, people have many reasons for choosing veganism. Thinking of a vegan as just another hippie is the same as any other racist, cultural or gender stereotype. It’s just another form of prejudice and judgment.

Many people turn a blind eye to the cruelties inflicted on innocent animals. They either don’t care, don’t know, or don’t want to know what is happening in slaughterhouses every single day. It is disgsuting. I am not striving to someday be the poster child for veganism but I do wish I could show everyone a few PETA videos and then see how they feel about their hamburgers. It makes me sick and I know it makes others sick. But they continue to eat meat. Why?

Many people claim meat is meant to be a part of the human diet and that animals were put on earth for us. Really?  What makes us so special?  I can’t believe that people are this self centered!!  Were the trees put here for us to tear down too?  Where does it end?

I will agree that animal meat does provide some nutrients not found in other foods (like B vitamins), but this is 2012 and there are many ways to supplement these vitamins and minerals. Most people are lacking in nutrients such as vitamin D or C, but they don’t seem to notice or care. Taking a multivitamin can be helpful in many ways.

Sometimes I worry that I won’t get enough protein without meat because I weight train and require about twice as much protein as a normal person. But the truth is, a normal person only needs about 50 grams, so most people have no room to complain! Fifty grams is so easy to get, even if all you eat is salad!! Veggies have about 3-5 grams of protein per cup on average, with broccoli, peas, French beans and cooked spinach being about 2-3 times that amount. I made a stir fry yesterday and out of curiosity, I measured my veggies after I cut them up, right before I cooked them. Without even trying to eat that much, I was making 6 cups of veggies. That is somewhere between 18 and 30 grams of protein. So I’d be about halfway to my daily total with just that one veggie stir fry meal. I could’ve mixed in some quinoa and probably almost made my daily quota. There are so many options, including brown rice, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, tofu, soy milk, seitan, almonds, peanut butter and beans. Oh and P.S. these foods are amazingly nutritious too!

Of course, non-vegans can also enjoy dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, all of which provide adequate protein as well.

People claim they can’t be vegan because they don’t want to live on salad. I was one of these people!  I like veggies but not enough to ONLY eat them. But then I realized how many amazing foods are out there. There are so many vegetables and fruits. I sometimes hide lots of veggies in a smoothie if I am just not in the mood to eat them. I also play around with soups and stir frys, which are some of my favorite foods to eat. I don’t need to add meat. At first, I felt as if something was missing. But I realized that was more about habit than taste. I am also experimenting with grains I have never eaten. Also, these days, vegetarian restaurants are all the rage, especially where I live. My favorite restaurants are Indian and Ethiopian anyway, and thankfully, they both offer an abundance of vegetarian options.

Today I had an amazing vegetarian burger. It was a big old grilled portabella mushroom loaded up with lettuce, tomato and onions. It tasted better than a real burger and with all the standard toppings, I could hardly tell I was eating a big vegetable. Afterwards, I felt so much more energized than if I’d eaten an old fashioned beef burger, which in the past always left me feeling heavy and tired.

A big concern I had was not having enough energy or feeling deprived. But from reading about veganism, it seems like a lot of people have ENDLESS energy when they cut out meats and incorporate more energizing fruits and veggies. I am finding this to be true as well. After all, these are foods that came from the ground and from trees…grown with good old sunshine and water. They are earthy, colorful and vibrant. They are also natural and delicious. Fruits and veggies have an abundance of nutrients that our bodies need to function and their water content helps ensure you will stay hydrated instead of hungry.

After all this, would you still rather eat a processed burger?! If so, keep reading as I move along on my journey. 🙂

Meet Your Meat

I don’t ever want to judge anyone. I don’t want to push my personal beliefs on other people. I also don’t want to be graphic. But if you have never seen a video on how your meat is made, you owe it to yourself. Not only are the videos absolutely appalling, but it gives you some idea of the quality of the meat you are eating. 9If you don’t care or don’t want to know, I truly think you should take a minute to seriously consider why you feel that way).

Animals are pumped with hormones to maximize growth. They grow so unnaturally fast that their bodies cannot handle it and they often become crippled. These animals are not running around freely and then simply put to sleep peacefully, as many of us blindly wish to believe. They are highly social, intelligent animals that feel pain and emotions. Yet, they are left to spend their sad lives in filthy, diseased, awful and inhumane conditions, until they are eventually tortured to death.

Most of us would condemn a person who killed our pet dog or cat, but we still allow  millions of other animals to be tortured and killed? Where do we draw the line?

If you eat meat, you are not only condoning the inhumane treatment of animals, but you are also ingesting many unnatural hormones, bacteria and diseases.

In addition, meat production is horrible for the environment. It consumes 40% greenhouse gases than all of the world’s cars, boats, buses and airplanes combined. Meat is one of the top contributors to the loss of land and water, as well as air and water pollution.

Chances are, even if you think you know, you probably have no idea how a piece of chicken, pork or steak made it to your kitchen table. Check out “Meet your Meat” at this link:

http://www.meat.org/

AMA quote

“A vegetarian diet can prevent 97% of our coronary occlusions.”

— American Medical Association

Quote

“I do not want to make my stomach a graveyard of dead animals.”

— George Bernard Shaw