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What does protein do? Why is it important?

The nutrition world has been a buzz about protein for some time now. How much protein you need is a common debate. I will tell you where your protein comes from is far more important than how much you get each day. In a similar way that not all calories are the same, not all protein is the same.

Protein is a building block for the human cell. Protein is actually made up of amino acids. Some amino acids are naturally occurring in your body and others must be consumed from a food source. Accumulation of amino acids that go unused can lead to such things as kidney stones.

Look for plant-based sources of protein (non-gmo soy, hemp, pea, rice, or peanut) especially when supplementing your diet with a protein shake or protein bar. When broken down into amino acids during digestion, these protein sources will have few by-products left to cause damage to your internal systems as free radicals. What you want to avoid are the dairy proteins whey and casein.

The reason - whey is the waste product of a process that uses the waste of another process. After milk is pasteurized, the remaining substances are used to mass produce cheese (mostly casein proteins). What's left over from the process of making cheese is whey. For years it was simply discarded because it has no nutritional value until the protein supplement market came along and someone in the dairy business saw dollar signs by selling it to these companies. Whey is not a "clean" source of protein because it is essentially waste times two.

Casein has been shown to digest slowly which is why some people believe it has good restorative properties for muscle recovery. Unfortunately, it has also been shown to promote cancer growth as well. That’s a risk not worth taking.

Will casein and whey help you bulk up? Yes. But they can be disruptive to the digestive system and the gut microbiome whereas plant-based proteins do not show those same potential side effects. And yes, plant-based proteins can help you bulk up as well. They contain all the amino acids you need to promote cell growth and recovery.

Plant protein sources include quinoa, non-gmo soy, legumes (beans), peas, lentils, edamame, and almonds. And when someone tells you that you must get your protein from animal products, remind them that cattle, horses, elephants, etc. all eat grass and don't seem to have any difficulty bulking up with muscle from plant protein.

Avoid the side effects and stick with the clean source of protein coming from plants.

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