Last issue we told you that protein builds and repairs body tissue and was a major component of enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Let's expound on that. Protein is essential for growth and development. It provides the body with energy, and is needed for the manufacture of hormones, antibodies, enzymes, and tissues. When protein is consumed, the body breaks it down into amino acids (the building blocks of all proteins). Some amino acids the body can make for itself, while others we can only get from our dietary intake (food we eat). When the body makes protein (for example, building muscle), it needs a variety of amino acids for the protein-making process. If a shortage of amino acids becomes chronic, the building of protein in the body stops, and the body suffers.

You have two types of proteins -- determined by the amino acids they provide. Complete proteins contain ample amounts of all of the essential amino acids. These proteins are found in meat, fish, poultry, cheese, eggs, and milk. Incomplete proteins, contain only some of the essential amino acids. These proteins are found in a variety of foods, including grains, legumes, and leafy green vegetables. This does not mean that you can only get a complete supply of essential amino acids from protein sources like meat, fish, poultry and other complete-protein foods. This is of concern due to the high fat content that may be associated with some of the complete-protein foods. Fortunately, the dietary strategy called mutual supplementation enables you to combine partial protein foods to make complementary protein (to supply adequate amounts of all the essential aminos). For example, although beans and brown rice are both quite rich in protein, each lacks one or more of the necessary amino acids. However, combined they become complete protein rich foods sources.As a matter of fact if you combine beans with any of the following they become a complete protein rich food source:

Brown rice

Or combine brown rice with;

A better list of the proteins that can be combined to obtain complete protein follows.

GRAINS: barley, bulgur, cornmeal, oats, rice, whole-grain breads, pasta.

LEGUMES: dried beans, dried lentils, dried peas, peanuts, soy products.

SEEDS and NUTS: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, cashews other nuts, nut butters.

VEGETABLES: leafy greens, broccoli.

Furthermore, all soybean products, such as tofu and soy milk are complete proteins. Yogurt is one of the few animal-derived complete-protein recommended for frequent use in the diet by health advocates. Now that we have a good idea of proteins, let's move on to carbohydrates (carbs), which have gotten an undeserved bad rap as of late.

Carbohydrates supply the body with the energy it needs to function. Carbs come in two basic forms: simple and complex. Simple carbs are one, two, or at the most three units of sugar linked together. While, complex carbs are hundreds or thousands of sugar units linked together in single molecules. Simple Carbs (sugars) can be identified by their taste (sweet). Also, they dissolve or dilute easier in water. Examples of simple carbs are fruits, table sugar, juices, etc. there are two groups of complex carbs: High fiber and low fiber. High-fiber, complex carbs are not digestible, at least not by human beings, because we do not have the enzyme to do the job. That's why when we eat something high-fiber, it goes right through us, if you know what I mean. The main stuff in high-fiber, complex carbs that is indigestible by humans is called "cellulose." High-fiber vegetable foods are the healthiest choices for human nutrition, and intake of these foods is associated with lowered incidences of hypertension, colon cancer, arthritis, diabetes, etc. Examples include lettuce and broccoli. Examples of low-fiber, complex carbs are banana, tomato, squah and all cereals and grains (bread, pasta), potatoes and rice.

It doesn't matter if a carb is simple or complex. After digestion, it appears in the circulatory system in the simple form, as glucose, on its way to the cells where it is used for energy.

Simple sugars and low-fiber, complex carbs present a threat to health when they are consumed in an appropriate amounts such as may occur in low-soy, vegetarian diets, where they are being eaten to replace the calories which would ordinarily come from protein. Also, processing of plant food strips away its fiber and/or vitamin content. A very simple example of this is cutting an orange in half and pressing the juice into a glass while discarding the fiber part of the orange. While it is true that fiber is an important part of our diet, even necessary to protect you from some diseases, carbs themselves are not necessary. There are "essential" fatty acids and "essential" amino acids (from protein), however, there are no known "essential" carbs.

Remember, Carbs are the main source of blood glucose, which is a major fuel for all of the body's cells and the only source of energy for the brain and red blood cells. Except for fiber, which cannot be digested, both simple and complex carbs are converted into glucose. the glucose is then either used directly to provide energy for the body, or stored in the liver for future use. However, when a person consumes more calories than the body is using (i.e. metabolism, exercise), carbs may also be stored in the body as fat. When choosing carbs for you diet, select unrefined foods such as fruits, vegetable, peas, beans, and whole-grain products, as opposed to refined, processed foods such as soft drinks, desserts, candy, and sugar.

It should be noted that fiber, although not digestable, delivers a few extra health benefits like binding with certain cubstances that would normally result in the production of cholesterol. We will discuss fat in the next issue. Let's talk about some of the fad diets.

The High protein diet:

This diets tells a person to restrict the amount of carbohydrates they eat and to increase the amount of protein and fat that you eat. The reason behind carbohydrate restriction is that carbs, when eaten, cause a subsequent spike in insulin(a hormone used in regulating blood sugar) levels. This spike in insulin supposedly causing many of the damaging health concerns like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc. Although many of the facts surrounding this particular diet are true, we must understand that it is unhealthy for us to consume only two of the three energy nutrients for any prolonged period of time. Also, it must be understood that many of the high protein foods may be extremely high in saturated fat. This would pose other health concerns. A high protein, extremely low carb diet would rob us of many of the vitamins and minerals associated with carbohydrates. We would also lose many of our sources of fiber.

The bottom line is that a balanced diet is the best diet. Fad diets only work temporarily. No diet should deprive you of the foods you enjoy. After all, food was meant to be enjoyed by all. If you eat many of the foods you like in moderation, it won't kill you, literally.

Now that you understand protein and carbohydrates better, we have to talk about the black sheep of the energy nutrients, FAT. Next issue we'll discuss fat and we'll do a breakdown of how much of each one of the energy nutrients you need in your balanced diet. On your road to physical fitness, stay pumped, stay motivated and OO-RAH!

Semper Fidelis!