by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© February 2019, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
For rapid development, which is the goal of the diets and programs recommended on this website, protein is a critical food. Adults need about 12 to 15 ounces of a protein food each day. The best way to eat this is to have two portions daily of 4 to 5 ounces each of animal quality protein food. This can be preferably heirloom beef (see below for details), lamb, dark meat chicken and sardines. Up to four ounces of cheese or plain yogurt is okay, but not required.
In addition, one may have another serving daily of a non-animal quality protein. It can include roasted almond butter or roasted sesame tahini.
Other important notes about protein are:
- Women can have up to 6 eggs per week. Men can have up to 8 eggs per week, and no more.
- Proteins need to be cooked, but not overcooked.
- Avoid all pig products, although they are nutritious. Most can contain parasite cysts or eggs, even when well-cooked.
- Avoid lentils at this time.
- Avoid eating whole nuts or seeds, and avoid bison and buffalo.
- Too much protein causes toxicity of the liver and kidneys, and excess production of proteinaceous toxins in the colon, evidenced by foul-smelling stools. Too little protein in the diet can cause weight gain or loss, and severe malnutrition. For more details about how to eat protein and which ones, read Food For Daily Use.
Definition. Proteins are one of the most amazing group of molecules in the human body. They are complex combinations of smaller chemical compounds called amino acids. These are like the bricks or building blocks of a building.
There are about 22 amino acids. Some can be made in the body from other amino acids, or in other ways. However, at least 8 or 10 of them must be obtained from our diet. All of the amino acids contain oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen. Many also contain sulfur.
Like building blocks, millions of these amino acids are chained together, stuck together, and folded over each other to form complicated shapes and structures to create millions of critical body components.
Metaphorical definition. Proteins are associated with motion, the basic quality of animal life. While plant life is more concerned with sugars and carbohydrates, animal life is more concerned with proteins. (However, all life contains both proteins and carbohydrates.)
WHAT ARE PROTEINS USED FOR IN OUR BODIES?
The quick answer is they are used to make most everything in our bodies. Here are a few of their main uses.
Hormones. Many of the hormones such as insulin and progesterone are proteins.
Oxygen transport. Hemoglobin, a blood protein, carries oxygen to the cells.
Cellular repair. Heat shock proteins help rebuild our cells after stress.
Binding and transport of nutrients. Transferrin, metallothionine, ceruloplasmin and other transport proteins bind to minerals and other things, and carry them throughout the body.
Movement. Muscle protein (such as myoglobin) is responsible for our ability to move.
Holding genetic information. Proteins such as RNA (ribonucleic acid) and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) in the nuclei of our cells are responsible for the genetic code.
Structural proteins. Proteins are also essential for the body structure. Bone consists of a protein matrix that fills with calcium and other minerals. Other structural proteins include collagen, cartilage, elastin and keratin that form the skin and other structures.
Enzymes. All enzymes are proteins. Thousands of enzymes facilitate every chemical reaction in the body.
Conversion to fuel. Proteins may also be converted to sugar or fat to be used as fuel for the body. This is not ideal, but it does occur in some people.
PROTEINS IN OUR FOOD
The main source of protein is our diet. We eat proteins from animals and plants. Our bodies can synthesize some of the amino acids, but many of them must be obtained from the diet.
When we eat protein from plant or animal foods, we must break it down into its simpler amino acid components. This is called protein digestion. This is like taking apart a building and sorting out all the bricks to be used to build a new building.
Then our bodies reassemble the amino acids into our body proteins. This is called protein synthesis or biosynthesis. It is like taking the bricks and building a new building.
We also have some capacity to change one amino acid into another, to give us more types of “building blocks” with which to make our body proteins.
Protein-containing foods can be roughly divided into three groups depending on how much protein they contain:
1. High protein foods include red meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt and beans. Others are wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, nutritional yeast and some algae such as spirulina. These foods contain about 20% protein or more. We do not recommend spirulina or algae as they are difficult on the liver due to some of their contents. They are often found in some “green superfood” powders, food bars and drinks.
I find that everyone needs to eat some high-protein foods today. However, eating too much of them, especially too much eggs is not ideal and causes liver toxicitgy.
2. Medium-protein foods include grains such as rice, wheat, oats, millet and barley. These contain 6 to 14% protein and are considered incomplete proteins. This means they should be combined with other protein foods to provide complete protein.
Unfortunately, modern hybrid grains often contain much less protein than the grains that were grown 100 years ago or earlier. Wheat, for example, used to have 12-14% protein and now contains six percent in many instances. Even organically grown grains today are hybrids.
3. Low-protein foods include fruits, vegetables and juices. These contain less than 5% protein. Living on a low protein diet of mainly fruit, for example, does not work well for human beings, in my experience.
In addition to the sources above, some people like to use protein supplements. These include 1) protein powders, 2) protein bars, 3) meal replacements, 4) hydrolyzed or pre-digested protein and 5) isolated amino acid supplements. Let us discuss these products in more detail.
Powders versus whole foods. Protein powders and supplements are made from a variety of sources. Some are better than others. The best is probably egg protein powder. However, I never recommend protein powders and meal replacements for the following reasons:
1. Too yin. Smoothies and shakes usually contain powders, which are all yin, combined with a sweetener, which is yin, and water, which is yin. All of this is bad for health and difficult to digest properly for most people.
2. Much less nourishing. You will get far more nutrition from an egg than from egg protein powder, or from peas rather than pea protein powders, etc. The powders are all refined and many nutrients have been stripped away.
3. Bad food combinations. Combining powders with water with fruit, often and other things is usually a terrible food combination.
4. Must drink too much liquid with the drink. It is best not have much liquid with meals. this is not possible with a drink or smoothie. The liquid dilutes the stomach acid and impairs proper digestion of the food.
Whey protein. This product is extremely popular, especially among body builders and it is highly recommended by many holistic doctors. It contains a decent balance of the amino acids and other minerals and substances.
However, recent research I have done indicates it contains toxic forms of nickel and copper. In addition, it is very yin when taken in a smoothie or a shake, and forms bad food combinations in these drinks with too much liquid with the food. Therefore, I cannot recommend it at all. Its toxic components cause it to be stimulating, so a lot of people love it.
Whey protein is reputed to help people quit smoking, and I would agree that using some whey protein is better than smoking cigarettes, but that is its only advantage. Once you have quit cigarettes, then move on and stop the whey protein powder in favor of whole food proteins such as eggs, meats and raw cheeses.
Soy protein. The most popular protein drinks and bars are often made from soy. The label may say made from soy protein isolate or just soy or soybean protein. However, often it just says textured vegetable protein and this also means soy in most all cases. Thousands of products are made of this, such as Hamburger Helper, vegetarian burgers and many other products.
Soy problems. Soy protein powders and foods made with it are probably the worst ones and are best avoided altogether. Soy is not a particularly high quality source of protein, although it is technically a complete protein.
However, the soy is always processed and must be. This renders it less desirable as processing damages the protein structure a lot. In fact, it is usually a leftover byproduct of the manufacture of soybean oil. Chemicals such as acetone may be used to extract the oil, leaving a residue of chemicals in the soy protein.
Soy has other drawbacks such as containing too much copper, low zinc, enzyme inhibitors, thyroid inhibitors and other toxic residues. Its main benefit is its low cost, which is very important to food manufacturers.
Egg protein. Egg protein powder is also often labeled as albumin. This is generally a much better form of protein powder, drink or bar than soy or most others. However, we still suggest eating whole foods, not protein powders of any kind.
Milk Sources. The two powders made of milk protein are whey powder and casein. Whey is a little better, but we don’t suggest either of them.
Others. Protein powders may also be made from rice, peas, yeast or fish. We do not recommend any of them, in general. We prefer whole food protein sources.
Hydrolyzed protein. Some protein supplements such as Bragg’s Liquid Aminos contain pre-digested protein. This means the protein has been broken down into its amino acids by a chemical process so it requires much less digestion.
The source is often soy, however. This is a definite disadvantage. Also, unfortunately, hydrolyzed protein always contains some monosodium glutamate or MSG, a harmful food chemical. It occurs naturally as part of the processing of hydrolysis.
Pure grown amino acids. A more expensive type of protein supplement is pure amino acids that are made by fungal organism in a laboratory. These usually come in capsules and are called free-form amino acids.
These can be useful for some cancer patients or others who cannot digest protein well at all. I do not recommend them for most people, however, because they are 1) very yin, a type of toxicity, and 2) made from fungus, which can cause allergic reactions in some individuals.
Meal replacements. Meal replacements are usually protein powders mixed in with extra vitamins and minerals, and usually a sweetener. They are usually terrible food combinations, contain too much sugar, too much water, and are hard on the digestion.
Most of them are also nutritionally incomplete, and much too yin. They may be needed for tube feeding if a person cannot eat regular food. Otherwise, we do not recommend them.
Even if a person must be fed through a tube, we think it is better to make fresh purees from cooked vegetables and some meats, rather than use most meal replacement powders and liquids.
Sugary protein drinks, powders and bars. Beware of protein bars, powders and meal replacements that are high in sugars. This is often the case because otherwise the product would not taste good.
The label may say sugar, corn syrup, fructose, glucose, lactose, liquid sugar, honey, agave nectar, rice syrup, barley malt or fruit juices.
We also suggest avoiding ALL PRODUCTS containing Nutrasweet or Equal that are often used instead and in “low calorie” bars and powdered drink mixes. To sweeten a protein drink, Stevia, xylitol, mnanitol or sorbitol are more healthful sweeteners.
Even better, stay with protein foods since all sweet-tasting foods and drinks tend to keep the sweet taste alive and the artificial sweeteners and the others can deceive your body to some degree and are thus less healthful.
Other Additives. Also beware that most protein powders, bars and drinks contain natural or artificial colors and flavors, preservatives and perhaps a dozen other chemicals. This is yet another reason to eat whole foods rather than chemical concoctions of protein powders, liquids, pills or bars.
Also remember that while protein supplements may be helpful at times, they are never a substitute for food. Whole, natural, minimally cooked and processed proteins are essential for our life and our health and there is no substitute for them.
Complete protein foods. Meats, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, soy and peanuts are considered ‘complete proteins’. This is a useful but not absolutely true concept that means that these proteins contain a good balance of all of the essential amino acids that our bodies need.
Our bodies require at least 22 amino acids for health and well-being. Of these, 10 or so are called ‘essential’. This means we need to ingest them in our diet. We don’t need to eat the other 12 or so, because we can convert the essential ones into them inside our bodies.
Incomplete protein foods. These include grains, beans, nuts, seeds and even some forms of meats such as rabbit. They are commonly eaten as stapes in poorer nations and by strict vegetarians, also called vegans.
If a person does not eat complete protein foods, one must eat a variety of less complete protein foods in order to obtain all the required amino acids. Otherwise deficiency symptoms, some irreversible, will begin to appear.
In our experience, eating a lot of incomplete proteins or lower quality protein foods is never advisable unless one is very ill with cancer or some other extreme situation. They just do not nourish the body as well.
Biological quality. Some protein foods contain a much better balance of the essential amino acids than others. A food with a good balance has a higher rating of biological quality. Egg protein (albumin) rates highest in biological quality. Meat protein has the second best biological quality.
Other quality factors. These include freshness, how the food was grown or raised and how it is prepared. Other quality factors include the breed of chicken or other animal, the soil the food is grown on and many other subtle qualities. Even the altitude at which a food is grown or raised can influence its nutritional qualities, for example.
Raw protein foods. Some people prefer all raw food diets. We find these are always harmful, even if you feel better on them for a while. For details, read Raw Foods.
Cooking protein. Too much cooking denatures or damages protein, which is why an egg becomes harder with cooking. For this reason, protein foods should be cooked lightly for the best nutrition. For details, read Cooking and Food For Daily Use.
Proteins must be broken down into their amino acids to be used in our bodies. If they are not properly broken down, they rot or putrefy. This is a very toxic process that literally poisons the body and causes foul-smelling bowel movements and gas. This is how you know some putrefaction is going on.
Pepsin and hydrochloric acid in the stomach and trypsin and chymotrypsin from the pancreas are among the important protein-digesting enzymes. One must have enough of these enzymes to digest the amount of protein one eats or putrefaction will occur to some degree. Most people do not have enough of these, which is why we supplement everyone with a protein digesting enzyme such as GB-3 or betaine hydrochloride and pepsin.
Digestion depends on general nutrition. Our bodies convert sodium chloride to hydrochloric acid in the stomach to help break down protein. Enzyme production also requires zinc, which is deficient in most people due to our depleted soils and refined food diets. For example, vegetarian diets, for example, are lower in zinc. Today, many children are born low in zinc due to their mother's zinc deficiency.
Other minerals and many vitamins are also needed to make digestive enzymes. Thus one’s entire nutritional state is important for proper utilization of protein and its digestion into simple amino acids. Then these must be recombined to make our proteins. This is discussed later.
Food habits and protein digestion. For good protein digestion, eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Relaxed, enjoyable, sit down meals help maximize digestive enzyme production. Avoid overeating and relax after meals for at least 10 minutes to facilitate digestion.
Take digestive enzymes if you are unsure whether you are digesting protein properly. My favorite digestive enzymes are pancreatin and ox bile. Hydrochloric acid and pepsin is another common protein-digesting product.
FACTORS THAT CAUSE PROTEIN DIGESTION PROBLEMS
1. High levels of toxic metals. These interfere with zinc and other vital minerals.
2. Stress keeps the sympathetic nervous system active and interferes a lot with digestion, a parasympathetic activity.
3. Fatigue does the same as stress and it weakens the digestion tremendously. Always rest before meals if tired, even if it is just for a few minutes.
4. Nutritionally depletion, as explained above, impairs digestion a lot.
5. Infections in the intestines, which are quite common. These include parasites, yeasts, bacteria and more.
6. Illnesses affecting the intestines such as colitis, ulcers, cancer and others.
7. Some pharmaceutical drugs and over-the-counter product interfere a lot with digestion. Among the worst are anti-inflammatory drugs like Aspirin, Tylenol, Aleve, Excedrin and other anti-inflammatory drugs that irritate the stomach and can even cause ulcers.
Beta blockers, proton pump inhibitors and calcium supplements are others that interfere with digestion. Some of the common names are propanolol, Inderal, Protonix, Prevacid, Prilosec, Tums, Choos, OsCal and many others in the same classes of drugs.
In fact, any toxic substance, even food additives will interfere with digestion, which is quite a delicate process. This is just another reason to eat well and rest after meals as Mexicans and Europeans often do with a siesta after the large meal of the day. This is a wise idea for everyone, even if it is a 10-minute rest.
8. An alkaline stomach due to drugs or nutritional or other imbalances interferes a lot with protein digestion. The wrong acid in the stomach is another issue related to this one. This is why the pH of the stomach is not enough. It must be the correct acid as well, and why supplements are so helpful in many cases.
9. Improper bowel flora is another common cause of digestive problems. Although this is most common in the large intestine, it can occur in the small intestine as well. It is responsible for bloating, often, in the stomach due to gas formation.
10. Constipation and/or low fiber in the diet may also interfere with proper digestion.
11. Complex food combinations. The simpler a meal, the easier it tends to be to digest. This is why I suggest meals be constructed with cooked vegetables and either one protein or one starch only. Also, monomeals (one type of food per meal) are also excellent.
MINERAL ANALYSIS AND PROTEIN NUTRITION
Digestive problems. Hair mineral analysis reveals digestive problems in most everyone today. This is due to the volume of toxic chemicals we ingest with our food and drinks, added to the stress of modern living and the use of pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs that interfere with digestion. Low vitality also plays a part.
Indicators for impaired digestion on a hair test may include:
1. A sodium/potassium ratio less than about 2.5:1. The lower the ratio, often the worse the digestive strength or vitality. For this reason, the ratio is called the vitality ratio.
2. A hair potassium level of 4 mg% or less. This is called Sympathetic Dominance and implies that the sympathetic nervous system is overused. This, in turn, usually impairs digestion a lot, even if there are no recognizable symptoms.
3. A hair zinc level less than about 12 mg%. Zinc is needed to make most of the digestive enzymes. A low hair zinc level is often associated with inadequate digestive enzyme production.
4. An elevated level of any of the toxic metals or poor eliminator patterns. The presence of excessive toxic metals often interferes with proper digestion. Many compete with zinc, for example, which is a critical element in the production of digestive enzymes.
Other possible indicators of impaired protein digestion and utilization are:
1. A phosphorus level of 12. This is not the case, however, if a pubic hair sample is used as this may cause elevated phosphorus readings.
2. A copper level above 2.5 or a hidden copper toxicity pattern. Read Copper Toxicity Syndrome for more information about hidden copper toxicity.
I would say most if not all the clients who come for nutritional guidance have one or more of these digestive indicators. This is why I suggest that all adults take a powerful digestive enzyme containing ox bile and pancreatin to assist with protein digestion.
THE VICIOUS CYCLE OF POOR PROTEIN DIGESTION
Vicious cycles are what destroy our bodies. Impaired protein digestion causes nutrient deficiencies and often bowel toxicity. This further impairs protein digestion, which in turn worsens nutritional status and the cycle continues until death occurs.
For this reason, I make a point of recommending only high quality protein in adequate quantity. Also, it is why I suggest avoiding all drugs and food additives, if possible, and to have excellent eating habits. It is also why I suggest plenty of rest, with some rest before and after meals as well.
All of this is often necessary to break the vicious cycle of poor protein digestion, a very essential body function.
PROTEIN SYNTHESIS IN THE LIVER AND ELSEWHERE
Digesting proteins, which is breaking them down into their respective amino acids, is only half the battle in the proper utilization of proteins. The other half is rebuilding the amino acids into the thousands of hormones, enzymes, tissues and organs of our bodies.
Here another vicious cycle needs to be stopped. This is that poor nutrition in general impairs synthesis of proteins that are needed to digest and synthesize more proteins. If this cycle persists for any length of time, chronic disease and death will ensue.
Thus, improving the overall state of nutrition is paramount to assist proper protein synthesis. This includes virtually all the minerals and vitamins. Equally important is to rid the body of toxic substances such as cadmium, arsenic, lead and hundreds of toxic chemicals that interfere with proper protein synthesis.
The mineral zinc must be singled out as particularly important for protein synthesis. It is required for the enzyme RNA transferase, a key step in protein synthesis. However, in fact, many minerals and vitamins and other nutrients are required for this complex process of DNA synthesis.
Once again, most people are deficient in zinc, selenium, chromium, bioavailable manganese and other nutrients, so their synthesis of protein is quite impaired. This slows all healing and all rebuilding of body tissue.
Protein and wound healing. I am often amazed how quickly and easily people with wounds or surgical scars that won’t heal complete their healing when they follow a complete nutritional balancing program to improve their overall health. This has a lot to do with protein digestion and protein synthesis. Anyone with wounds, scars or other areas of the body that will not heal properly probably has problems with adequate protein synthesis.
PROTEIN RECOMMENDATIONS FOR RAPID DEVELOPMENT
For the most updated recommendations, please read Food For Daily Use .
ANIMAL VERSUS VEGETABLE
In my experience, most people eventually do not feel well on a limited, vegetarian regimen. Animal protein is higher quality. It also contains many other essential nutrients including vitamin B12, zinc, niacin, carnitine, taurine, cysteine, methionine, alpha-lipoic acid and others. These are not present or less biologically available in vegetable proteins. Deficiencies can take years to develop and can be difficult to correct.
I encourage vegetarians to at least eat eggs for their high-quality protein, particularly the sulfur-containing substances such as taurine, cysteine and methionine. These are essential for eliminating toxic metals and synthetic chemicals to which we are all exposed. I cannot emphasize enough the need for the sulfur-containing amino acids and taurine (technically not an amino acid) found in greatest abundance in animal proteins.
The argument to avoid animal protein due to its cholesterol content has been largely disproven. Excess homocysteine, mineral deficiencies, toxic metals, infections and inflammation correlate much better with heart disease than does one’s cholesterol level.
In fact, cholesterol is the raw material from which we make stress hormones. Several strict vegetarian clients had high cholesterol levels because their bodies were out of balance in spite of not eating any cholesterol-containing foods.
PROTEIN AND WEIGHT LOSS
Some people avoid protein thinking it will cause weight gain. However, research by Robert Atkins, MD and many others indicates the exact opposite is true. Protein stabilizes blood sugar and supports the activity of the adrenal and thyroid glands. Thus it often assists weight loss.
SPECIAL PROTEIN NEEDS
Children. Adequate protein intake is very important for children, who are growing fast. Vegetarian diets low in protein, or diets high in soy products instead of meat and eggs, lead to many problems for children such as growth problems, ADD, ADHD, infections and others. Protein is the major scourge among poor children around the world. Don’t copy the deficient diets of third world nations.
Pregnant and Nursing Women. During pregnancy and more so during lactation, adequate protein intake is critical. Otherwise, the baby’s nutrition and growth will be impaired.
ALL nursing mothers need adequate protein. Please stay away from all vegetarian diet, and ideally follow a complete nutritional balancing program. At the very least, always supplement the diet with a fish oil supplement and vitamin D (about 5000 iu daily) for the best brain development of your baby. For much more on this subject, please read Breastfeeding on this website.
The Elderly. Older people often suffer from protein deficiency because:
1. Problems chewing.
2. Digestive enzyme secretion diminishes with age.
3. Poor appetite.
As a result, older people often do not like eating as much protein as they cannot digest it. As a result, digestive enzymes are critical for most older people. I much prefer ox bile and pancreatin to all the others.
Those with chronic illnesses such as cancer. Protein digestion is severely impaired in cancer and to some degree in most chronic illness. Proteolytic digestive enzymes are an important supplement for anyone with chronic illness. In some cases, amino acid capsules are good for a while until protein digestion improves.
Body builders. This is the one group that often overdoes on protein. Their excessive protein intake may be hard on the kidneys and can unbalance body chemistry.
We are appalled at some of the diets recommended by trainers and others in the body building industry. They are often too high in protein, deficient in essential fatty acids and very deficient in cooked vegetables that supply the essential alkaline reserve minerals better than any other foods. Please avoid these types of diets.
MAD COW DISEASE
A few people avoid all animal protein, or at least beef, due to fears about Mad Cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalitis. However, this disease is very rare, in fact. If it were common, we would hear a lot more about it from the mainstream media, I believe, as it is a horrible disease.
Manganese problems. Some cases of this disease are also due to manganese poisoning. This is how it works. Phosmet, an organophosphate pesticide sprayed along the spinal columns of cows to kill fleas or for other reasons, bonds with manganese and this damages prions. If the cows are then fed diets high in manganese, the symptoms appear. The symptoms are identical to a condition called ‘manganese madness’. This theory best explains British and French outbreaks of Mad Cow disease. However, the pesticide’s manufacturer blocked efforts to publicize the real cause of the disease.
Hoof and mouth disease, another fear of some people, is not a human disease and poses no danger to humans. It is caused by nutritional deficiencies. This was proven in the 1920's by Sir Albert Howard, a famous British soil scientist.