By Tara Narayan
How to put more protein in vegetarian diets so that all nine essential amino acids are there!
SUDDENLY I’ve woken up the importance of eating protein! If you are a vegetarian you must ask yourself how much protein is there in your diet? Not too little, not too much either. Most vegetarians in India are constantly accused of eating too little protein, too much carbohydrates – and that to refined carbs, terribly high glycemic index, so much so we see diabetes everywhere and even in hospitals there’re a much higher turnout of patients suffering diabetes. That’s when your pancreas is exhausted and konks out, overproducing insulin to take care of all that blood sugar looking for places to park itself in obesity, etc.
Comes a time when the key to our cellular engines are lost and insulin can’t enter to keep them fired …something like that. No matter how much you eat you will still lose weight now! Diabetes is the beginning of the end of body beautiful and high doses of insulin is not the answer some experienced patients say, drugs just work on the law of diminishing returns and soon your kidneys are in trouble and your body hurts everywhere, wounds don’t heal.
BEFORE you realize it it’s dialysis time for you…even if you eat fruit your creatinine levels will go up. You may not eat fruit, not even papaya, guava, pineapple, coconut water. Your water intake is limited, I don’t know why! I mean when you should be revelling in oodles of water to de-tox yourself naturally, here you are one bad day with the doctor telling you only so much water and no more.
Suddenly, there’s water restriction in your life and you rue the day you screwed up your happiness by saying no to some of the worst lifestyle habits of drinking and eating we indulge in so easily in our consumerist-crazy urban life, forever chasing the good life of ease and comfort. Pickling our insides with all kinds of bottled and tetra-packed sugary drinks, but not pure and plain life-giving water.
Why? Water on tap not good enough to drink? Up to WHO standards? More acidic than alkaline? PhD of water – look for it in bottled water. The bottled water business has blossomed into a vile industry with its pet bottle litter all around us. Why should water have to go into bottles in the first place and a price put on it!
If life were merchandise, the poor would always die, the rich will life by hook or by crook. You see it reflected around us in the wars currently dragging us on the brink of warfare so diabolical in its political mercenary avatar…we forget there is a finite Mother Earth who keeps us all alive no matter how much we use and abuse her.
DIABETES (and we’re talking of diabetes II here, the most common kind) is no respecter of rich or poor. Your entire endocrinology system is affected. Once you are on dialysis twice a week diabetes is too far gone and you may register yourself on the kidney transplant waitlist – maybe free at the Goa Medical College & Hospital in Goa but will still have to wait for a matching kidney donor! Plus, life will never be the same again. I have been listening to the woes of a dialysis patient and am suddenly aware of the role of proteins in our eating habits.
Proteins is what builds muscle and keeps the scaffolding of the skeleton with the nervous systems weaving in and out in good condition. Lately, I’ve been hearing that vegetarians are constantly low in proteins. Eat more proteins, vegetarians, vegans!
SO what are proteins? Let me refresh your memory about what we may have learnt in school or college in biology classes…simply, we need enough protein in our diet to stay alive and kicking but for some reason carbohydrates and very bad carbs are the story of our lifestyles today which are constantly on the run fuelled by industrial junk carb foods.
Where is protein? Look for it in your diet! Yes, chicken, chicken and chicken, so pumped with hormones that as a people we are becoming infertile (India leads in infertility today so much in love with chicken it is.)
But to stay with proteins! It is an important part of any healthy diet. Proteins are the building blocks called amino acids of which nine are the most important and which are not made in body beautiful but supplied by the right kind of eating which you may or may not be doing. Proteins build and repair muscles and bones and make hormones and enzymes. They fuel energy, they perform most of the work of our living cells.
Proteins are a class of macromolecules involved in virtually every cellular process; they replicate and transcribe DNA, and produce, process and secrete other proteins. Again, proteins build and repair tissues, drive metabolic reactions, maintains pH…the quality of your bones, muscles, cartilage, skin owe proteins big time by being present or absent in your eating habits. Protein is one of the three primary macronutrients, the others being carbohydrates and fat.
Macronutrients are chemical compounds and define our energy levels. Proteins and their amino acids are the most commonly found molecules in the cellular foundation of our body. Our body can produce most of the amino acids we need to stay healthy, but not the important nine amino acids which it cannot produce…you must find them in your diet.
Proteins provide the same energy density as carbohydrates but the body does not store proteins the way it stores carbohydrates and fats. So it means we must eat protein every day to stay alive and kicking. There are of course a lot of differences today about what kind of proteins we should eat and how much, we may err on the side of too little or too much (which also has consequences).
Protein sources differ from country to country and culture to culture depending on the availability of natural foods and how we eat them. Some will say eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, quinoa (millets are being promoted sky high today by the government of India and prices are sky rocketing, like I said, the rich may live forever and the may poor die)…anyway, the aforementioned food items numbers are all sources of complete protein, which means they contain all nine essential amino acids are present.
IT’S arguable today but there’s one school of research which says plant proteins are not complete proteins, while another says they are complete but depending on what plant protein foods you eat – nuts, beans, seeds and how much of it. There’s an interesting What Health Netflix series, I haven’t caught up with it yet but will do one of these days. The story is it is commonly only heavy meat eaters have issues with kidney stones and kidney diseases, rarely do vegetarians who depend on animal-origin proteins in dairy milk and its products (and even here there is a huge fight going on about how good dairy is for human health and dependent on the monstrous ill-treatment of our bovine animals).
All that is in the realm of debates only and you must read up and make up your mind quite simply because we all have individually different constituencies and while some foods may agree with us and do us good, some may not and you may end up suffering something called irritable bowel syndrome or some such thing. Your experience with various food alone will tell you instinctually.
Vegetarian Indians say if they eat vatana (peas) they get enough protein, spirulina and peas have some of the highest concentration of protein (the Japanese eat a variety of sea food and sea weeds in their diet and it’s a fact that when they went out to US of A and adopted the junk food diet of Americans they started manifesting diabetes big time).
So this is to say, protein is a big deal. But do some reading up vegetarian and non-vegetarian and get your facts right about what proteins are good, not so good, bad beyond a limit. How much protein we need is dependent on our body weight and you will be shocked to learn that the protein need for an adult is only 0.8 per kilo body weight! What proteins you eat is important…peas and leantils have say 10-15 g of protein per 100 g. Vegetables? You have to eat several kilo worth of spinach or mushrooms to meet daily protein requirement!
Then there are all our confusing diets and most people nowadays are on something called a SAD diet where they get too much protein but not enough fibre. Both protein and fibre are a big deal in life. All you need to know is that your protein intake must have all nine essential amino acids for healthy functioning of the body and which plant-based diet has all nine amino acids? Do nuts and seeds have all the nine amino acids? Same as say ribeye steak and eggs?
Go find out and catch some interesting debates raging on Facebook posting and come to your own conclusions. The story is proteins are not all created equally and no plant contains all the amino acids and therefore, they are or are perceived by many as incomplete protein values.
Well, check it out. But don’t forget to do review how much protein there is in your diet today, and if there’s none or very little, do something about it. If you don’t want to degenerate faster than most people do today.
Creatinine test for kidneys wellbeing…
MOST kidney patients you will notice worry about their creatinine number going up or down. What is this creatinine test? A creatinine test measures how well our kidneys are working at filtering waste from blood. Creatinine is a leftover chemical compound from energy producing process in our muscles. Kidneys filter creatinine out of blood. Creatinine exists in the body as a waste produce in urine.
If your kidneys are so damaged that you can no longer do urinate freely you have to go for dialysis. However, a person with only one kidney may have a normal creatinine level of about 1.8 or 1.9. Creatinine levels of 2.0 or more in infants and 5.0 or more in adults indicates severe damage in kidneys.
People who are dehydrated usually have elevated creatinine levels. Women often have a lower blood creatinine level than men. Reportedly, 15% of the US population suffers from chronic kidney disease or CKD (2023 figure). It is possible to reduce creatinine levels and reportedly some foods do help, plus drinking at least eight glasses of water daily.
Don’t ill-treat your kidneys smoking and guzzling artificial drinks regularly. Some folk don’t drink water at all! Some foods which kidneys love are the fresh berries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, all berries are rich in antioxidants and help lower inflammation in the body. Also, include garlic, greens, cherries, olive oil in your eating habits. Treat your kidneys like VIPs in your body beautiful!