About complementary proteins and beans

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From "All You Should Know About Health Foods," Ruth Adams and Frank Murray (New York: Larchmont Books, 1975)

". . . Every living thing made of protein has a different set of amino acids making up this protein. When we eat a protein food our bodies rearrange these amino acids during digestion to form them into the arrangement that our bodies have, so that they will "fit" our cells and body mechanisms.

". . . We human beings are able to manufacture many amino acids in our bodies, but there are eight amino acids that we cannot manufacture. This means that we must get them in food, for they are essential parts of the overall amino acid pattern we must use to build and repair the cells of our body.

". . . The names of these amino acids are long and hard to say. They are: isoleucine, leucine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. There's no need to remember them or to attempt to worry about getting more or any of them at everyday meals.

"But there are circumstances when the composition of protein becomes very important. That is when you are planning a meal which consists largely of proteins which are short on one or more of these essential amino acids. Dr. [Isaac] Asimov uses the amino acid lysine as an examnple, for this is the one which is known to be in short supply in modern baker's bread. He says, 'Suppose the protein in the food we eat contains all the amino acids in the same proportion that is found in the protein of our tissues, except that one of the essential amino acids--lysine, for instance--is present in only half the expected supply.

"'This means that when the body begins to rearrange the absorbed amino acids into our own tissue protein, it will run out of lysine when only half the amino acids have been arranged. The body cannot form protein molecules without lysine, nor can it make the lysine from anything else. Nor can it store the remaining amino acids and wait till some more lysine comes along. [Note from OG: more recent research suggests that the body CAN store some of the amino acids until the missing one comes along, but not for a long period of time. I can't remember how long, let's say not over a day to be safe.] What the body does is to burn the remaining amino acids for fuel.' This means the protein is wasted, for carbohydrates and fat should be used for fuel--not protein. Protein is needed for rebuilding cells and for taking part in many complicated body mechanisms which go on all the time. Without enough protein, 'complete' protein, all these various things will break down.

"What do we mean by 'complete' protein in food? We mean that all the essential amino acids listed above are present in such amounts that none of the final protein product will be wasted. The body will be able to combine it in such a way that every bito of it will be used to best advantage.

"Protein is the single most expensive food ingredient there is in the world today. We should not waste it. We must not waste it, for it is the food element that stands for life or death for every human being alive on the planet today. It is very expensive in terms of protein to grow grain and grass, then harvest them and feed them to cattle, hogs, or poultry, then eat the beef, pork or chicken. The amount of protein that can be grown on one acre, fed to an animal that we will then eat, produces much less protein on our plates than if we ourselves ate the grain or grass instead of feeding it to the animal.

"Human stomachs cannot digest grass. And human societies have a way of developing malnutrition if they are fed nothing but grains. Why is this? Because grains are short on one or another of the amino acids we mentioned above, so the final string of amino acids which the body puts together out of nothing but grain is short one or more amino acids. So. much of the protein is wasted.

"What's the answer, then, if we want to be economical about protein? The answer is to eat complete protein at every meal, to be certain that you do not--even in snacks--eat a food which is short on one or more amino acids. You will be wasting protein if you do. If your bread is made of just wheat flour and water, it is short on the amino acid lysine. If you eat a bit of cheese or peanut or almond butter with your bread, you have made a complete protein out of it, for either the cheese or the nut butters supply the lysine that is missing from the bread. If your bread was made with milk, it is a complete protein because the milk supplies the missing amino acids.

"Any food of animal origin--meat, fish, poultry, cheese, eggs, milk--is made up of complete protein. If you feed nothing but foods of this kind, as the Eskimos do, for example, you are supplying your body with all the complete protein it needs to perform all those activities which protein performs in our bodies. Of course, you must still provide those vitamins that are missing in these high protein foods--vitamins A and C, generally speaking . . . .

"While shopping at your health food store, don't overlook the various protein supplements that are available. There are the protein wafers or tablets that can be carried in pocket or purse; the protein powders--from meat, egg or vegetable sources--that can be mixed into an energy-filled drink or used in various ways. There are predigested protein liquids and other forms of protein. These supplements are ideal for old people who may have trouble chewing certain high-protein foods. But they can be used by all members of the family, especially those who may not be getting sufficient protein from their meals."

RDA for protein:

Children, 1-3, 23 grams

Children, 4-6, 30 grams

Childre, 7-10, 3 grams

Males, 11-14, 44 grams

Males 15-22, 54 grams

Males, 23 and over, 56 grams

Females, 11-14, 44 grams

Females, 15-18, 48 grams

Females, 19 and over, 46 grams

Pregnant women, +30 grams

Lactating women, +20 grams

It's easy to pair up beans and bean products with a complementary protein. Just think of bean chili and rice with cornbread, refried bean tacos, bean soup with wholewheat breadTVP stroganoff over wholewheat pasta--use your imagination.

From "The Complete Book of Food Counts," Corinne T. Netzer (NY: Dell, 1988).

Highest protein content of canned bean salad: S&W, marinated, 1/2 cup, 4.0

Protein content of beans (in grams)

Bean Sprouts, 1 cup:

kidney, 7.7

mung, 3,2

navy, 6.4

pinto, 6.0

soy, 9.2

Protein content 8oz cooked dry beans (grams)

great northern, 17.7

kidney, red, 17.7

lima, 15.5

pea or navy, 17.7

pinto, 17.0

black-eye peas, 15.0

lentils, 16.0

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), August 18, 1999


Wow. Old Git, thank you for this one. It is deserving of refrigerator door space. Already printed and hung there. So much info and I really appreciate it. From now on there will be milk in my bread. Taz

-- Taz (Tassie@aol.com), August 19, 1999.

Be careful with the protein powders as excess protein--these are very protein rich--is tough on the kidneys.

-- Mara Wayne (MaraWAyne@aol.com), August 19, 1999.

mara,I love the way your advice is always nay-saying and poo-pooing others advice.

-- mike (mike@wal-mart.com), August 19, 1999.

Here's another point of view. Too much protein creates an acid condition in the body that leads quickly to the degenerative diseases. Unbiased studies conclude we need much less protein than meat/dairy councils try to sell us on. Probably peak need is the growth spurt of babies. And Mother Nature has provided them with mother's milk for that, at about 3.5% protein. Whenever we eat too much protein and become adid, the body has to take emergency measures to get itself back to a bearable PH. Working with what is at hand, it leaches calcium from our bones to do the job. This is the major cause of osteoporosis, actually. Also, most proteins do not digest well in the presesnce of carbohydrates. (Tofu and sprouted beans excepted.) So if we always add a heavy protein to our starches, we will end up with poorly digested food creating toxins in our body. I am simply not sold on the need to focus on protein. A dietician told me years ago that I could not live without more of it, but I am still fine. In fact, I am one of few people my age without some sort of degenerative disease. I have no medical condition at all to treat, and it's my understanding it's due to how I treat myself. Shivani

-- Shivani Arjuna (SArjuna@aol.com), August 20, 1999.

Good advice re excess protein. Which is why my oldest cat is on Hill's Kidney Diet--low protein for her failing kidneys. She's been on it for quite a while and is as active as any 18-year old cat should be. Vet says she'll last a good few years yet (barring other problems) as long as she stays on a low-protein diet.

Bear in mind that the vast majority of nutrition studies are done on young, healthy, active college students. I'd say err on the high side for the RDA of vitamins (except the known toxics, that is) because older people don't utilize vitamins as completely, and on the low side for protein, because less activity means less need for energy--like this

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), August 21, 1999.

For those interested, keep an eye out for an old copy of Recipes for a Small Planet, author Lappe IIRC> Its from the 70's, and was one of the premeir books int he health food/vegetarian fad back then-and although some have debunked the complimentary protein idea, theres a lot to having the necessary nutrients there. Certainly makes sense. The book has many recipes that would go well with storage foods, and gives a general idea on how to make your meals contain the compliments in the right categories. I grabbed a dog eared copy last year for 25 cents at a yard sale-and was glad to get it.

-- LauraA (Laadedah@aol.com), August 23, 1999.

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