Hormone Balance with Proteins
Protein is a powerhouse of a macronutrient in addition to creating organs, muscles, nails, and hair, protein helps cells communicate, facilitates muscle contraction, and the transmission nerve signals. Protein makes up immune molecules, blood cells, hormones, and enzymes. It even assists cells in making new protein. Having all of these roles to perform, it's easy to see how essential it is to consume an adequate amount of protein.
Protein is made up of chains of amino acids, and each type of protein has it's own unique combination of amino acids. These are broken down in the body and used to build tissue, and signal metabolism, and other processes. This is one of my favorite analogies: Our bodies are like super computers and the DNA is like the programming language for the proteins in your body. DNA tells your body how to create the right proteins for nearly every process that occurs. In order for your body to follow this map of instructions set out by DNA. There have to be plenty of amino acids available. Just one single amino acid is missing will result in a protein that is unable to complete it's function. There are 20 amino acids, many of these are synthesized in the body. However, there are 8 we are unable to produce, so we must get them from our foods. These are called essential amino acids.
Animal protein contains all 8 essential amino acids in adequate amounts. There are also several complete plant proteins, but not all the protein in these non-animal foods is available to the body. It is considerably more difficult to consume all the necessary amino acids on a strict plant based diet.
Recently, there have been studies linking consuming red meat regularly, to cancer and heart disease. However, the protein in red meat is not the problem, it's actually the fat composition of the meat. Quality matters! Grass-fed beef, pasture raised eggs, wild caught fish, and organic vegetables facilitate better hormone function.
Even though meat is a great source of protein, it is important to maximize benefits of diet by opting for grass-fed over conventional. Protein has a very direct impact on hormonal balance. Protein is an essential structural component of all hormones.
How much protein?
Low Protein Diet (less than 50 grams per day)
-Decreases prolactin, growth hormone, estrogen, thyroid hormones, and insulin.
-Stimulates the stress response
-Increases body fat and fatty liver
High Protein Diet (More than 1 gram per kilogram of body weight)
-Can result in damage to the kidneys
-Increase body fat
The optimal amount of protein should be determined based on specific needs and activity levels. If animal proteins are not an option (or a choice), the best plant sources will contain proteins that are bioavailable to the body.
Complete and Highly Bioavailable Plant Proteins
Protein must be balanced based on several factors
Plant protein can be a source of complete protein, but not all plant protein is available to the body. Also, many plant proteins have anti-nutrients (oxalates, oxalic acid, lectins, glycoalkaloids) which can cause side effects. There are ways to decrease: soaking, fermenting, heating, sproting, grinding. Further consideration when choosing animal vs plant protein sources is how the proteins are packaged. Animal proteins are packaged with fat, while plant proteins are packaged with carbohydrates. Too many carbohydrates can lead to inflammation. Other considerations of conventional plant only protein diets are the soil the plants are grown in. Heavy metals in the soil get absorbed by the plant. These include: mercury, lead, arsenic.. They are highly toxic and can accumulate in the tissues.
Finding the right type and amount of protein is a critical building block of health and hormone balance. Choosing a diet based on your specific needs and activity levels, bio-individuality. Too little protein can decrease hormone production and stimulate stress response. Too much can damage kidneys and increase body fat. Let's work together to find the right amount and type of protein to increase vitality and balance.