Coming from the culture where Yogic traditions are a way of life, I always practiced and believed that food not only makes us who we are but also heals our mind and body as needed. And in the past few years, Neuroscience is also actively exploring the effects of various food groups and the excess of them on our mind and body. Animal studies have start to surface already and so I thought let me share with you a little bit. Since most of the people seem obsessed with Proteins mainly due to commercial mental-hijacking, I decided to start with Proteins.
We know that Proteins are essential nutrient for the human body. They are used in every cell, and plays a key role in the production of enzymes, which are involved in nearly every bodily function.
There are myriad benefits to eating a diet that contains plenty of proteins, as long as it comes from healthy sources such as lentils (about 10 types), beans, Indian home-made yogurt (also one of the best source of Probiotics), Greek yogurt, and raw cheese, Seeds ( sunflower, sesame, chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin seeds), Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios), Tofu, Edamame, and of course free-range eggs, wild fish, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, to name a few.
What is Protein and Why Do We Need It?
Proteins are chains of amino acids that aid in building muscles, repairing tissues, improving blood circulation, enhancing one’s mood, increasing longevity, maintaining consistent blood sugar levels, strengthening bones, boosting neurological function, and more.
Eating too little proteins can result in fatigue, moodiness, a slow metabolism, joint pain, and problematic changes in blood sugar levels.
The Pitfalls of Eating Too Much Protein
As with everything, however, eating too much can cause problems. According to Dr. Mercola, a board-certified practitioner and a New York Times bestselling author, “On average, Americans consume anywhere from three to five times more proteins than they need for optimal health.”
Consuming too much proteins has been linked to brain shrinkage, the grey matter that we need to store memories, at least in mice. We are not far from it. The journal Molecular Neurodegeneration reported that mice who were fed diets high in proteins and low in carbohydrates had brains that were five percent lighter than mice who were given amounts of protein that were sufficient but not excessive.
Furthermore, parts of the brain that are essential to memory did not develop normally, and that can increase the chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
While similar testing has not been performed on humans, research has shown that human diets that are low in fat and high in fruits & vegetables, are the best for lowering the risks of dementia. That does not mean that we don’t need healthy fats, we need healthy fats for our healthy brain and body. For those of us who are totally on no fat diet, you might appear thin but no fat diet can create long lasting misery. Think!
Continuing on Proteins, in addition to potentially negatively affecting the brain, three other problems of eating too much proteins are:
- Weight Gain: Excess protein cannot be stored in a beneficial way, so it’s typically converted to sugar and then stored as fat, resulting in weight gain.
- Increased Cancer Risk: Elevated blood sugar levels can fuel cancer cell growth by stimulating the production of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), which has been linked to several types of cancer.
- Dehydration: Kidneys must work overtime to remove nitrogen waste that results from excess protein. This strains the organs and results in dehydration. It also leaches bones of important minerals, thereby leading to weaker bones. Straining the kidneys, according to Medline Plus, can cause ammonia and other toxins to build up in the bloodstream, which can lead to hepatic encephalopathy, another link to a decrease in brain function and weak nervous system.
- Anxiety and Depression: For many people, major physical illnesses cause episodes of anxiety and depression and in some cases traumas.
- Gluten: Heard of it? I am sure you have. If you have gluten intolerance or allergy, your brain & rest of the body will be inflamed, can lead to migraines and various Auto immune diseases. And if you are taking proteins in excess, you can multiply the effect.
How Much Protein Should we Eat?
Everybody needs a different amount of protein each day depending on gender, age, weight, and activity level. However, according to the USDA, the general guideline is that men should eat about 56 grams of protein per day while women should consume about 46 grams per day. Again not to forget our activity level and age group.
The aim is be to eat the right amount of protein, from an array of both plant and animal sources. Too little or too much will likely cause health-related problems either now or down the road.
~ Our mind and bodies are not separate. What we eat and think, it becomes “us”. So eat well, think well and Be well ~