Four essential food groups for the conscious eater
Protein when digested is broken down into the amino acids: the building blocks of energy, enzymes, glandular products and much more. Essential amino acids, are those the body can’t manufacture and must be obtained from complete protein foods: meat and diary products. For vegetarians who eat dairy products, natural, unsweetened yogurt is a complete protein that is also rich in vitamins and much needed friendly bacteria (lactobacillus acidophilus).
Non-essential amino acids are those that the body can manufacture and are mostly found in incomplete proteins: leafy green vegetables, grains, seeds and legumes. You don’t have to eat complete proteins (meat/dairy) to obtain both essential and non-essential amino acids. Combining incomplete proteins provides a complete protein with all amino acids: a mix of grains, nuts, legumes and seeds.
Tofu, derived from the robust soy bean, has been long used as a meat and protein supplement by vegetarians. At present there is considerable controversy surrounding western manufactured soy products that lack adequate fermentation and becoming familiar with the issues is highly recommended. Soy products considered safest are those that have been properly fermented in the age-long Asian tradition: Japanese nato (fermented soybeans) and miso paste used for miso soups.
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