The Importance of Protein for Beautiful Skin and Hair
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see soft, supple, radiant, glowing, blemish-free skin? Or do you see age spots and new wrinkles?
The skin is the first "aging" sign we tend to see in ourselves. We all want to find ways to keep our skin beautiful, soft, and, we hope, wrinkle free. We will each get some wrinkles, but nobody wants them prematurely!
My mother, Gladys Lindberg, had the most beautiful skin for her age of any woman I have ever seen. She far surpassed the "beauty experts" and "movie stars" in her beauty and grace. At age 85 she had a clear, peachy complexion and was virtually wrinkle free! She had no patchy "age" spots or blemished skin. She never smoked and avoided the sun whenever possible. This was natural beauty. Mother started her quest for health when she was 43 years old. She said her skin was blotchy and never radiant, but her program drastically changed the quality of her skin.
Important Advice for Skin Health
A woman recently came into our store looking for a "magic formula" for her deeply wrinkled skin. She was only in her mid-40s, but said her skin had changed drastically over the past months. Being quite disturbed about the situation, she came to me wanting "that miracle cream."
I talked to her for a few minutes and discovered that she had been on a severe reducing diet for several months. She had followed a diet low in protein, and over the course of those months had lost her skin tone. It had started to sag and wrinkle way beyond what would be normal for her chronological age. Most women want to be slim, but if you saw her, I'm sure you would agree, "not at that price!" Here are some things I told her that are important for healthy skin regardless of whether you're trying to lose weight or not.
Collagen - the Skin's "Cement"
Elastic skin is a sign that a person has ample collagen, the strong cement-like material that binds together the cells of your body. Collagen is a structural tissue and it is replaced very slowly. It is made of fibrous protein. In fact, collagen comprises 30 percent of the total body protein. Its strong white fibers, stronger than steel wire of the same size, and yellow elastic networks, called elastin, form the connective tissue that holds our body together. Collagen strengthens the skin, blood vessels, bones, and teeth. It is the intracellular cement that holds together the cells in various organs and tissues. Collagen is one of the most valuable proteins in the human body. A person who has been sick, or who has been on an extremely low-protein diet, very often sees the muscles in his or her arms and legs begin to sag, which is a sign that they have probably lost collagen.
Let's Start with Protein
The building blocks of protein are amino acids. When protein is eaten, your digestive processes break it down into amino acids, which pass into the blood and are carried throughout the body. Your cells can then select the amino acids they need for the construction of new body tissue, antibodies, hormones, enzymes, and blood cells.
There are 22 different amino acids, each of which has its own characteristics, and are like the letters of the alphabet. The eight essential amino acids are like the vowels. Just as you cannot make words without vowels, so you cannot build proteins without these essential amino acids. Protein is not one substance, but literally tens of thousands of different substances. The essential amino acids must be consumed in the diet because the body does not make them.
The complete proteins that contain the eight essential amino acids come from meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk -- all dairy, cheese and soy. They are basically anything that comes from the animal. Nuts and legumes (peas and beans) contain some but not all of the essential amino acids; these are known as incomplete proteins.
In various combinations, all of these amino acids are capable of forming an almost limitless variety of proteins, each serving its own purpose.
Proteins are necessary for tissue repair and for the construction of new tissue. Every cell needs protein to maintain its life. Protein is also the primary substance used to "replace" worn-out or dead cells:
- Most white blood cells are replaced every ten days.
- The cells in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and blood platelets are replaced every four days.
- Skin cells are replaced every 24 days.
- More than 98 percent of the molecules in the body are completely replaced each year!
Your muscles, hair, nails, skin, and eyes are made of protein. So are the cells that make up the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, nerves, brain, and your sex glands. The body's most active protein users are the hormones secreted from the various glands -- thyroxin from the thyroid, insulin from the pancreas, and a variety of hormones from the pituitary -- as well as the soft tissues, hard-working major organs and muscles. They all require the richest stores of protein.
How Much Protein a Day?
Many "experts" differ on the amount of protein needed in the diet. Some suggest very low amounts; some suggest much higher amounts, especially if body building. I have found with my nutritional counseling that most people consume a very low protein diet, especially if they tell me they are tired all the time. When I have them increase their protein during the day, usually with protein shakes, it is amazing how much better they start to feel.
The following protein requirement chart is to be used only as a guideline for determining your protein requirement. You may need more, or you might be able to get by with slightly less. Your requirement depends on your percent of body fat, your weight and the physical activity you do. The higher your activity level, the more you will need to increase your dietary protein intake to repair and rebuild muscle.
If you are undergoing any type of severe stress (including the stresses of cancer, burns, radiation exposure, or pregnancy), you need more. If you are susceptible to infections you may need more. Remember that antibodies, white blood cells, lymph cells, and everything our body uses to fight infections is made out of protein. I feel it is very important we look to the high side of these requirements.
Daily Protein Requirements for Men and Women Over 20*
Ideal Weight Protein Needed Safety Margin 80 lbs 40 grams 60 grams 111 lbs 50 grams 70 grams 133 lbs 60 grams 80 grams 156 lbs 70 grams 90 grams 178 lbs 80 grams 100 grams 200 lbs 90 grams 110 grams 222 lbs 100 grams 120 grams 244 lbs 110 grams 130 grams
*Our calculations for this age group are based on the usual recommendation of one gram of protein per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of ideal body weight, for sedentary individuals. However, adding 20 grams of protein to the above recommendation as a safety margin will ensure getting enough protein. Pregnant women should add an additional 20 grams, and nursing mothers should add 40 grams of protein to the above recommendation. If you are physically active, exercising every day, figure one gram of protein per pound of lean (your ideal) weight.
Three ounces of chicken yields approximately 20 grams of protein; one half cup of water-packed tuna contains 28 grams; eight ounces of low fat, plain yogurt has 12 grams. One egg provides six grams. An eight-ounce glass of low-fat milk has eight grams. Remember, there are excellent protein powders that are alternatives to traditional protein foods.
We need to remember there is a balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates that Mother and I have basically taught. It is important to eat five times a day and include some form of protein at each meal or feeding. We have found this program has helped more people look and feel their best. This may be ideal for most people, but remember, we are "biologically different."
In our nutritional program I recommend a variety of complete protein foods including fish, chicken, low-fat dairy, eggs, some red meat, quality protein powders, and nutritional yeast. Also consume an ample supply of various fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes which are complex carbohydrates and include the essential fatty acids. A strict fat-free diet is not healthy for your skin. My approach is this: You are not made of lettuce leaves. Your body is made of protein which is essential for almost every cell in your body, especially your hair, skin and nails.
Recognizing Deficiencies Related to Your Hair, Skin and Nails
- Puffy bags under the eyes, especially in the morning, may indicate a lack of protein.
- Water retention. General puffiness around the eyes, as well as swollen ankles, face, and hands, can result from a protein deficiency.
- Nails are made of protein, not calcium as some think. A protein deficiency can be marked by split, extremely thin nails. Nails that fail to grow quickly lack protein.
- The structure of the hair follicle is protein. There are eight amino acids that the body does not produce and which therefore must come from complete protein foods such as eggs, dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.), soy, meat, fish, and fowl. Quality protein powders can fill this nutritional requirement for complete protein foods. It's a great reason to use protein powders. Eat small meals often with protein at each meal.
- L-Cysteine and L-Methionine are the sulfur amino acids that form "keratin," which is the protein structure of hair. Studies have shown that supplementing with L-cysteine may prevent hair from falling out, as well as increase the diameter of the hair shaft. These amino acids have been found to increase hair growth by as much as 100 percent. Egg yolk contains the highest amount of these two amino acids. Another easy way to add sulfur to your diet is to take MSM.
The Value of Protein
It is important to understand the value of protein in our diet. Proteins are necessary for tissue repair and for the construction of new tissue. Every cell needs protein to maintain its life. Protein is also the primary substance used to "replace" worn out or dead cells. Your muscles, hair, nails, skin, and eyes are made of protein. Those with thinning hair and too many wrinkles for your age, may lack protein. The basis for neurotransmitters in your brain, and the substances that form the body's immune response against infection, is made from protein. The most active protein users of the body are all of the hormones.
Next to water, protein is the most plentiful substance in your body. In fact, if all the water was squeezed out of you, half of your dry weight would be protein. One third of this protein would be in your muscles, a fifth in your bones and cartilage, a tenth in your skin, and the rest in your other tissues and body fluids. Even 95 percent of your hemoglobin is protein.
Protein is the best nutrient to eat in order to maintain an even blood sugar level, because it is metabolized over a long period of time. Protein can be converted to glucose if need be. Now you have a better understanding why I keep emphasizing the value of protein. A quick and easy way to get more protein into your diet is to use a protein powder supplement.
Suggestions for Choosing a Protein Powder
Not all protein powders are alike, so it's important that you read labels. There are several types of powders dominant today. These protein powders may be used alone or in combination with other powders. Look for a powder formula that contains NO refined sugar such as white sugar, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, corn sweeteners or the artificial sweetener, aspartame. These are the four sources for protein powder that I recommend.
Whey Protein - Concentrates and Isolates. Whey concentrates and isolates have gone through a manufacturing process to remove most of the carbohydrates, fat and lactose from regular whey or sweet whey. The process is called "ion exchanged" or "filtered", both of which result in almost a pure protein. It also removes the majority of lactose for those who are intolerant to milk. The protein content is about 80 percent in the whey concentrates and 90 percent in the whey isolates. One method to rate the quality of one protein versus another is called Biological Value (BV). Proteins with the highest biological value promote the most lean muscle gains. Whey concentrates and isolates have higher biological values than regular whey, milk, egg or soy.
Casein (Milk Protein) is the predominant protein in milk. For example, the protein in cheese and cottage cheese is casein. Sometimes called calcium-caseinate, or sodium- or potassium-caseinate. It contains all the essential amino acids and is a good source of protein. It is very low in lactose. This slow digesting protein keeps you full longer since it must form a gel during digestion before it is absorbed. This slower transit time may extend the exposure to the protein in the intestines and may help increase absorption.
Egg Protein (Egg White or Egg Albumen). This protein used to be the 'gold standard' against which all other proteins were measured, until whey protein became available. Egg white protein provides all twenty-two of the amino acids with a proper balance of essential amino acids. It is an excellent protein source, but not very tasty compared to the milky taste of whey or casein. Some manufacturers add egg white powder to their protein powder to boost the quality of the protein. Egg white protein powder contains no cholesterol.
Soy Protein Soy protein is processed from the soybean plant and most of the fat, fiber and carbohydrate has been removed. Since it is a vegetable product, it has no cholesterol. The amino acid profile is not quite as good as the other protein sources. Do not attempt to substitute soy flour for soy protein powder. The two are very different products. Soy flour must be heated for it to be assimilated by the body.
Soy is a nutritionally significant dietary source of isoflavones. These naturally occurring isoflavones are genistein, daidzein and glycitein. Recent human research suggests that these isoflavones are ideal for people of all ages, especially women concerned about bone health, those looking for an alternative to hormone replacement therapy and women experiencing menopausal symptoms. However there are differing opinions on soy and relief of menopausal symptoms. These isoflavones also work in conjunction with soy protein to lower cholesterol. Research has shown that 25 grams of soy protein a day, used as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Some brands use GMO soy, meaning it is from genetically modified soybeans. Most brands are switching to the more expensive non-GMO (non genetically modified) soy for this reason. Check your label and use the non-GMO brands.
In summary, different proteins offer varying advantages. I suggest you consume a variety of proteins and be sure to get adequate amounts for optimal health.
My Favorite Protein Powders
Lindberg Protein Blend is a scientifically designed blend of the four protein sources just referred to, with predigested (hydrolyzed) whey for optimal digestion, absorption and utilization by the body. This is a new, revised version of our classic Varsity Protein powder designed by Gladys Lindberg many years ago, and the one I have used and recommended throughout the years. Our Protein Blend is formulated from soy protein isolate, which is a perfect addition to your cardiovascular and general health program. It is non-genetically modified (non-GMO) soy. It also contains whey protein concentrate, which has the highest biological value of any protein source. We also include casein (milk protein), which has a naturally slower passage through the intestine and allows for maximal peptide and amino acid absorption. Egg white (albumin) has also been added for it's excellent amino acid profile and because it comes from egg white, it's cholesterol free.
Lindberg Protein Blend powder has a mild natural vanilla flavor. It contains no added sugar, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, and no artificial ingredients or sweeteners, making it a wonderful all natural product for the whole family, including children. One serving contains: 110 calories, 22 grams of protein, 2 grams of carbohydrate and 1.5 grams of fat.
Lindberg Natural Whey is a whey protein concentrate powder, which provides the highest biological value protein available! The lactose has been filtered out, leaving less than one gram per serving - an amount easily tolerated by those with lactose sensitivities. Whey is an excellent source of BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), which are important to dieters and those on an exercise or fitness program.
Lindberg Natural Whey contains no artificial sweeteners, no artificial flavors or colors! One serving contains: 90 calories, 16 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbohydrate and 1.5 grams of fat. It is available in vanilla and chocolate. Drink one or two protein shakes a day made with whey protein or a combination of proteins.
- Braverman, E. R. and C. C. Pfeiffer. The Healing Nutrients Within. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1987, page 91.
- Lindberg, Gladys and Judy McFarland. Take Charge of Your Health. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1982, page 67.
- Information about all deficiency symptoms can be found in: Lindberg, Gladys and Judy McFarland. Take Charge of Your Health. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1982, pages 184-241.
- Braverman, E. R. and C. C. Pfeiffer. The Healing Nutrients Within. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1987, page 91. Buchanan, J. H. and M. S. Otterburn. "Some structural comparisons between cysteine-deficient and normal hair keratin." IRCS Med Sci 12 (1984): 691-692.
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