Anti-Aging Diet: Why High Quality Protein Is Essential
What is protein?
Protein is essential to life.
Every protein is made up of amino acids.
Proteins are essential to the production of healthy body cells and tissues.
All enzymes, which are the flames that ignite chemical reactions in the body, are made from proteins.
What is high quality protein?
High quality protein refers to those food sources which contain all of the essential amino acids in the body.
There are about 20 amino acids that make up every protein in the human body. About 11 of these are "essential" amino acids, meaning that we must consume them from our diet. That means, they cannot be synthesized from within our body, but need to be consumed.
Why is protein essential to anti-aging?
The key elements of healthy skin include collagen and elastin in the skin fibers. These two critical elements are both forms of protein in the body.
In addition, it is critical to understand how proteins that you eat in your diet affect your hormone response after a meal.
Proteins lead to the release of a hormone called glucagon, that is responsible for telling the liver to use it's existing glycogen stores to produce more glucose and put that glucose into the bloodstream for fuel.
When you eat high quality protein, it creates a situation where there is a nice steady and even flow of blood sugar into the blood stream, where it can nourish and satisfy the individual cells of your brain and body.
A slow steady release of glucose into the blood stream is a good thing. It helps your body feel satisfied, energized and keeps your brain alert.
From an anti-aging standpoint, eating protein causes little to no rise in your body's insulin levels. This is a good thing, since elevated insulin levels are the number one cause of accelerated aging in the body.
So by keeping consuming high quality protein at each meal, you give your body:
1) the fuel it needs to stay healthy and alert2) a nice slow steady rise in blood sugar, without increasing insulin levels3) the raw materials it needs to produce healthy tissues and skin, like collagen and elastin.
As great as protein is for your body, you can't live on protein alone. You need to consume some carbohydrates and well as some types of essential fats.
If you've been following along in this website, you know that keeping your insulin levels low is the most important anti-aging principle you will ever learn.
The problem is that when you start to add carbohydrates to your diet, your body starts producing very high levels of the hormone insulin.
Though insulin is vital in the right amounts, when the circulating levels of insulin in the body are too high (hyperinsulinemia), you are setting the stage for accelerated aging, obesity, diabetes, silent inflammation and a host of assorted problems.
So what are you supposed to eat?
This is the million dollar question.
I'm happy to say, that after billions of dollars in research, we now have a great answer to this question.
And, the answer is simple, but not always easy to follow. Here is it.
You must combine your proteins and carbohydrates in ways that for every 1 gram of protein you eat, you consume no more than 2 grams of carbohydrates.
Let me say that a different way.
If you are eating a meal that has 7 grams of protein, you should consume no more than 14 grams of carbohydrates.
Let me give you a personal example from my breakfast this morning.
I love peanut butter and it's rich in proteins and relatively low in carbohydrates. However, I don't always like eating it with a spoon out of the jar. Sometimes, I like spreading it on a piece of bread.
Now, here's the label breakdown on my natural peanut butter. 2 tablespoons of peanut butter provide 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of carbohydrates.
So if I eat it right out of the jar, no problem, my ratio of proteins to carbs is good, right?
Well, let's see. Here's the simplest formula I know to help you get this right.
1) Take the number of grams of proteins in a serving of food2) Multiply that number by 2, to get the upper limit of the grams of carbohydrates you should eat with that meal.
Let's do that now.
The label on my peanut butter says that 1 serving (2 tablespoons) has 8 grams of protein.
If I multiply 8 x 2, I get 16 grams. That is the upper limit of carbohydrates I should eat to balance out my protein intake.
So, if I eat the peanut butter, I'm allowed to have up to 16 grams of carbohydrates. But the label tells me, peanut butter only has 6 grams of carbohydrates, so I'm fine.
Now, let's say I really want that bread with it. I look at the label on the bread and it says that one slice of my whole grain bread has 17 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein.
So what? I'll tell you what!
If I would put 2 tablespoons of peanut butter on 1 slice of bread, I would have a total of 8 grams of protein from the peanut butter plus 4 grams of protein from the bread for a grand total of 12 grams of protein.
Counting the carbohydrates would give me 6 grams of carbs from the peanut butter and 17 grams of carbs from the bread for a grand total of 23 grams of carbohydrates.
So, can I spread the peanut butter on my bread for breakfast or do I have to eat it off the spoon?
Well, let's go to our formula.
1) Take the grams of protein and multiply x 2. So I have 12 grams of protein x 2 = 24 grams.2) 24 grams is the most number of carbohydrates I can have to balance out this protein without causing significant increases in my insulin levels.
Since I'm allowed 24 grams of carbs, I check my calculations and the peanut butter spread on the bread, only has 23 actual grams of carbohydrates.
So, I will be fine and I can go ahead and enjoy my peanut butter on a slice of bread.
But what if I have a sweet tooth that day and want some jelly. Can I do it?
Well, I pull out my Smuckers Strawberry Jam and I see that 1 measly tablespoon has 13 grams of carbohydrates.
If I add 1 tablespoon of jam to my peanut butter on bread, I will increase my carbs from 23 grams to 36 grams (23 for the peanut butter and bread + 13 for the strawberry jam).
That won't work. It's too many carbohydrates. If I spread that 1 tablespoon of jam onto my open face peanut butter sandwich, there will be only 12 grams of protein and 36 grams of carbohydrates.
That would exceed my allowance of 2 grams of carbs for every 1 gram of protein. That means there will be a price to pay.
What's that price?
Remember, when the carbohydrates outnumber the proteins by more than 2 grams of carbs to every 1 gram of protein, that food will cause a significant rise in insulin levels, which will create fluctuations in the blood sugar as well as accelerated aging due to the eleveated insulin levels.
In addition, this elevated insulin helps promote the conversion of DGLA (di-homo-gamma-linolenic-acid: an essential fatty acid) into AA (arachidonic acid), leading to the creation of silent inflammation in the body.
Is there anything you can do to get some jelly on your sandwich?
Well, there's one good thing I forgot to tell you about!
When you are counting your carbohydrates, you get to deduct the grams of fiber per serving from the total grams of carbohydrate per serving.
What does this mean?
Let's go back to our bread. Remember 1 slice of whole wheat bread has 17 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein.
So take the 17 grams of carbs and subtract the 3 grams of fiber, and the effective carbohydrate intake for 1 slice of whole wheat bread is not really 17 grams, but 14 grams (17 gm carbs - 3 gm fiber).
So, lets redo our calculations. In actuality our peanut butter on bread has a total of 12 grams of protein and only 20 grams of carbohydrates. (6 grams in the peanut butter + 14 grams in the bread).
Therefore, for our 12 grams of protein, we can eat 24 grams of carbohydrates without throwing our insulin levels out of wack.
So that leaves us 4 grams of jelly! Since 1 tablespoon of jelly has 13 grams of carbohydrates, you could have about 1/4 tablespoon of jelly on your sandwich. It's not much but it helps.
Another solution is to slice up a small amount of fresh banana or strawberry on your peanut butter. That will give you some sweatness without the high sugar load of Smuckers jelly.
Another solution is to skip the bread completely. Since the peanut butter alone has 8 grams of protein and only 6 grams of carbs, you can still have 10 more grams of carbs and stay within the limit of no more than 2 grams of carbs for every 1 gram of protein.
This way, you can have about 10 grams of jelly carbs, which is about 3/4 of a tablespoon.
Count your protein to carbohydrate ratio at every meal!
This is the very essence of treating food as a powerful medicine, which is the number 1 anti-aging principle you can follow.
It may seem difficult at first, but it's not really. You just need to always remember to count up about how many grams of protein you're having at a meal and multiply by 2. Then keep the grams of carbohydrates you consume at that meal less than that number.
Here's one more little tip.
Let's say I really want that peanut butter sandwich WITH a whole tablespoon of jelly.
Here's what you can do to make that happen.
Add more protein to the meal!
For example, one of my favorite high protein, low fat snacks is low fat Mozarella cheese sticks.
Each 1 ounce stick has about 7 grams of protein and 0 grams of carbs.
Do you understand what that means? It means if I just add a low fat cheese stick to any meal that is close, like my peanut butter and jelly predicament, I get to eat 14 extra grams of carbs!!!
Why 14 grams? Remember. Take the 7 grams of protein in 1 cheese stick and multiply x 2, to get 14 grams of carbohydrates. That is, since the cheese stick has no carbohydrates at all, you get 14 bonus grams of carbohydrates to eat.
So, here's how I would do it. If I really want that open face peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I can have it!
All I have to do is eat one cheese stick first to get more protein in my system.
(PLEASE NOTE: It is important to try and consume the protein before the carbohydrates.)
So, there it is folks. Let's analyze my breakfast of 1 cheese stick and an open face peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
1 Cheese Stick: 7 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbs.2 Tablespoons Peanut Butter: 8 grams of protein, 6 grams of carbs.1 slice of bread: 4 grams of protein, 17 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber.1 Tablespoon Smuckers Jelly: 13 grams of carbs.
Okay, let's tally the meal up!
Total Protein = 7 grams (cheese stick) + 8 grams (Peanut Butter) + 4 grams (bread) = 19 grams of protein.
So, based on our formula, lets multiply 19 grams of protein x 2 to get an upper limit of 38 grams of carbohydrates that we can eat at this meal.
Did we do it?
Total Carbohydrates = 6 grams (peanut butter) + 17 grams (bread) + 13 grams (jelly) = 36 grams PLUS remember we get to subtract any dietary fiber from our total carbs. Since there were 3 grams of fiber in the slice of bread, it brings our total carbs down to 36 - 3 or 33 grams of carbs.
Is 33 grams less than 38 grams?
You bet it is. So we're good! We can eat this for breakfast and still satisfy our cravings and our nutritional need to keep our protein/carbohydrate ratio in check.
Don't get discouraged! It gets easier.
I know this was a long, drawn out example, but I wanted you to see the kind of thinking you need to engage in just in order to choose the right foods to help maintain your optimal health and fitness level.
Monitoring your ratio of proteins and carbs gets easier and easier with time. I can very quickly perform most calculations in my head.
I know it seems like a lot of work, but believe me when I say that this is the most fundamental aspect of treating food like the powerful medicine that it is.
When you're insulin levels are under control, your energy level improves, your abdominal fat starts to melt away, your energy level increases dramatically and most importantly, you keep the inflammation in your body to a bare minimum.
It is this most critical anti-inflammatory benefit that will keep you from aging prematurely and keep you from developing the long litany of chronic illnesses tied to inflammation in the body.
So pat yourself on the back for sticking with me on this one.
GO have a low fat cheese stick and open faced peanut butter and jelly sandwich!
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