So many of us are caught up in a ‘protein frenzy’ because for a long time we have been fed information on how important protein is to our diet. Some people believe that meat is a better source of protein, while others think only meat contains protein, and that we will literally die if we don’t consume animal protein.
One of the first questions you are asked as a vegan is ‘Where do you get your protein?‘ Some people can’t even begin to imagine how I live. It is rather unfortunate that in this time in our evolution we still cling to, and are being constantly fed many protein myths, often to our own detriment. Lets look at three protein myths that I think need to be addressed:
1. The only or best source of protein is animal flesh
Meat is the only source of protein
Many people believe that animal protein is the only source of protein – this is not the case. There are a large number of plant-based foods that contains protein. You will find protein in lentil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, quinoa, nuts, seeds, beans, spirulina, amaranth, artichoke, broccoli, asparagus, chickpeas and green peas; and this is by no means an exhausted list.
Meat is a better source of protein
When we eat protein it is broken down into amino acids by the body. While the amino acids found in animal protein are more like the ones in our system, plant-based proteins usually have one or more less amino acids. Thus, the term, ‘incomplete protein’ is used in reference to plant-based proteins; and it is taken as an indication that animal protein must therefore be superior. However, let us examine this a bit closer. When we eat protein, it is digested into individual amino acids which are then absorbed into our blood stream, once they enter the blood cell, they reassemble. Protein then serves to maintain cell shape, among a number of other functions. What we are not told is in fact that plants (and micro-organisms) can synthesize all of the individual amino acids that are used to build proteins, but animals cannot.1 So while on the surface it may seem that animal protein is better because it is similar to our protein, the facts prove otherwise.
Look at the animals we eat – most in their ‘natural setting’, for example, a cow, consume no animal protein. Also, look at other animals like the gorilla, elephant, giraffe, who predominantly feed on fruits and vegetation. These are strong animals.
We feed our cow grass so it can get big and strong, then we eat it for the protein. Where did it get that protein from? One conclusion is that its body naturally produces protein and the vegetation it needs provide any other protein it needs.
2. Animal protein is needed for growth and repair
Mature human milk contains 0.8%-0.9% protein2. Thus, this is the amount of milk the average child consumes from suckling its mother. Bear in mind that this is the child’s primary source of nutrition, yet it able to grow and thrive on this very small amount of protein.
As soon as they are weaned from the breast, or as soon as we begin introducing other foods into their diets, protein becomes the primary nutrient. We are bombarded with stories that children need so much protein during the growing years and this is often the main focus for a child’s diet. This trend is carried into adulthood as we overdose ourselves with protein. Animal protein actually takes longer for the body to digest and so in instances of injury, a plant-based diet provides a great source of omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, which promotes healing and rejuvenation. Accordingly, Dr. Michael Greger, physician, New York Times best-selling author, and speaker on health issues has illustrated the anti-inflammatory effects of a plant-based diet in many of his presentations3.
How can we look to animal protein for growth and repair when the World Health Organisation (WHO) has told us that meat is carcinogenic. WHO has classified processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages and ham as class 1 carcinogens, which means that there is strong evidence that processed meats cause cancer. They have also classified red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork as being a ‘probable’ cause of cancer.
3. We need lots of protein in our diet
In the USA, Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So, for someone who weights 50 kg, daily intake would be 0.8 x 50, which is 40g, a mere 1.41oz.. .yes, less than 2oz! Also, the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI), for UK adults is 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight. So for the same person 50 x 0.75g/d = 37.5g (1.32 ozs) protein a day4. That’s not much and we are referring to all sources of protein here.
Let us also examine the work of Dr T. Colin Campbell, who spent over 50 years of his life examining the relationship between cancer and the diet we consume. Dr Campbell has stated that we eat too much protein. From his many researches, Dr Cambell came to an evidenced-based conclusion that a diet high in animal protein is the cause of many cancers.5
Also, if animal protein was such an important part of our diet, why was Dr. Sebi able to cure one of his patient (a child) of sickle cell anaemia, feeding her a diet primarily devoid of protein? The details of this was highlighted in a case brought against Dr Sebi (aka Alfredo Bowman) by the NY Attorney General in 1988. Dr Sebi was victorious as he demonstrated to the court through documented evidence that he was able to heal diseases such as sickle cell anaemia using diet and herbs…where was the animal protein the child’s cure? Simply, there was none!6
It is easy to see how the confusions and myths have been perpetuated and held on to when those in authority and the very people we trust to guide us to health such as our doctors, nurses, nutritionists and health providers keep feeding us with the wrong information.
We as individuals have to begin to start taking responsibility for our health. When we hear, see or read things contrary to popular beliefs, we shouldn’t just push them aside; investigate, ask yourself – does this make sense? Could this be true?
The information is out there, we just have to find it.
Explore these links for further information and confirmation:
2. Human breast milk: A review on its composition and bioactivity – http://www.earlyhumandevelopment.com/article/S0378-3782(15)00177-2/abstract
4. British Nutrition Foundation(https://www.nutrition.org.uk/attachments/article/234/Nutrition%20Requirements_Revised%20Nov%202015.pdf
5. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/6/1667.full ) (Dr Campbell video – https://youtu.be/mguepudBoYA
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