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    Protein: Not just for body builders

    Written by the Progressive Nutritional Education Team

    Although it is likely best known for its role in the growth and repair of tissues including muscle and bone, protein’s responsibilities move well beyond structure. For instance, enzymes are proteins that initiate important chemical actions in your body from blinking to thinking, to blood clotting and supporting your immune system. Some proteins are hormones that transmit information between cells, organs and tissues. Protein is also important for fluid balance and maintaining a healthy pH in your body. In other words, protein isn’t just for competitive body builders – it’s for anyone who wants to build a healthy body.

    How much do you need?

    The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) refers to the average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%-98%) healthy people. The RDA for protein for sedentary adults is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight a day. Results from recent studies suggest, however, that we can better support long term health by increasing our protein intake. Researchers found that muscle mass and strength were higher among 2986 adults who ate 1.8 grams of protein per kg body weight from any source (meat or plant) compared to those who ate less.

    Muscle matters

    As we get older, our risk of sarcopenia increases. Sarcopenia refers to loss of muscle mass and involves reduced strength and function. Whether or not you are an athlete, muscle health is important. Think about the muscles used to lift your arms over your head to pull on a sweater or button a shirt and you’ll understand that our independence as we age is strongly associated with healthy muscles. And remember that your heart is also a muscle: Research shows an association between sarcopenia and chronic heart failure.

    Did you know?

    Signs of protein deficiency:

    • Thinning hair and hair loss
    • Brittle nails
    • Loss of muscle
    • Increased appetite
    • More frequent cold + flu

    Protein boost with plants

    Plant-forward diets can be surprisingly high in protein. Grain-like seeds such as amaranth and quinoa provide a well-balanced composition of amino acids as well as albumin and globulin proteins. Nutrient-dense nuts, seeds and legumes including peanut, almond, cashew, flax, pumpkin and sesame seeds are excellent sources of the muscle-creating amino acid leucine. Plant foods that are low in one amino acid combine with other foods eaten throughout the day to provide all the required protein building blocks.

    Bye bye bloat

    Of course, plant proteins can cause digestive problems that lead to indigestion, gas and bloating. This is the result of phytates, which are the main form of phosphorus storage in seeds. Because they are indigestible for humans, phytates often cause discomfort. Phytates can also block absorption of dietary minerals and for these reasons are known as anti-nutrients.

    When seeds sprout, however, phytates degrade to make phosphorus available for the plant to use. Sprouting also amplifies the nutrient quotient of some plant foods. For example, sprouted quinoa boasts 30% more antioxidants and is known to have higher concentrations of γ‐aminobutyric acid (GABA) than raw. Germinated brown rice contains higher levels of amino acids glutamic acid, alanine, and glycine compared to the raw grain.

    Fortify with fermentation

    Fermenting plant foods also fortifies health benefits. Fermentation not only improves digestibility, but also increases the majority of the essential and non-essential amino acids in millet. Fermented pumpkin seeds also have increased crude protein over raw seeds. Finally, research shows that sprouted and fermented foods such as quinoa may reduce the glycemic index of foods.

    Build your healthy body

    If you don’t have time to sprout and ferment your own power protein plants, look no further than Harmonized Fermented Vegan Proteinto provide 23 g of protein per serving. Support digestive system health with Harmonized Fermented Vegan Protein’s simple blend of non-GMO sprouted and fermented Pea Protein Isolate, along with a custom blend of organic sprouted and fermented Amaranth, Quinoa, Millet and Pumpkin Seed.  Plant-based probiotics Lactobacillus plantarum and Saccharomyces cerevisiae are used for fermentation, so you’ll have a happy digestive tract. Available in delicious and creamy chocolate, vanilla, vanilla maple cookie and an unflavoured variety to stir into your smoothie.

     

    Selected references:

    Adebiyi, J. A., Obadina, A. O., Adebo, O. A., & Kayitesi, E. (2017). Comparison of nutritional quality and sensory acceptability of biscuits obtained from native, fermented, and malted pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) flour. Food Chemistry.

    Janssen, F., Pauly, A., Rombouts, I., Jansens, K. J. A., Deleu, L. J., & Delcour, J. A. (2017). Proteins of Amaranth (Amaranthus spp.), Buckwheat (Fagopyrum spp.), and Quinoa (Chenopodium spp.): A Food Science and Technology Perspective. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science & Food Safety, 16(1), 39–58.

    Onimawo, I. A., Nmerole, E. C., Idoko, P. I., & Akubor, P. I. (2003). Effects of fermentation on nutrient content and some functional properties of pumpkin seed (Telfaria occidentalis). Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, (3), 1.

    Wu, F., Yang, N., Touré, A., Jin, Z., & Xu, X. (2013). Germinated Brown Rice and Its Role in Human Health. Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition, 53(5), 451–463.