In the past, some people believed one could never get too much protein. In the early 1900s, Americans were told to eat well over 100 grams of protein a day. And as recently as the 1950s, health-conscious people were encouraged to boost their protein intake.
Protein is an essential nutrient for the human body. It is a polymer chains made of amino acids linked together by peptide bonds. In nutrition, proteins are broken down in the stomach during digestion by enzymes known as proteases in smaller polypeptides to provide amino acids for the body.
Protein was the first nutrient to be discovered and named and is vital to building, repairing and maintaining tissues in your body. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and 8 (some people believe there is 9) of the 22 amino acids that the body itself can’t produce is synthesized through the food we eat.
These amino acids can abundantly be found in plant based foods, where the animals get them, like cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, kale and many more plant foods.
When protein in broken down into amino acids, they are used as precursors to nucleid acids, co-enzymes, hormones, immune responses, cellular repair and molecules essential for life. Amino acids are also used for building new tissues, including muscle, as well as repairing damaged tissues.
The myth about protein can be traced to two incidents in history. The first was a statement made by Frances Moore Lappe in her best selling book ‘Diet For A Small Planet’ where she indicated that plant proteins were ‘incomplete’. 20 years later she recanted her theory saying she was badly mistaken (and other research has disproved her original theory as well), but far fewer people read those less popular writings and believe the flawed theory to this day. We do need all of the essential amino acids and plant foods do have them. However we don’t need them at every meal, every day since our body stores and recycles them. You can easily meet your daily protein (amino acid) requirements on a plant based diet.
The second incident is the meat, fish and poultry industries. In order to sustain growth and profits in the meat industry, their trade associations promote meat as the only good source of protein. You hear everything from cowboy commercials brainwashing elementary school children that ‘real cowboys’ eat beef and steak that make them strong and build healthy bones, to magazine and radio commercials touting the virtues of lean beef as healthy and complete sources of protein. The poultry and fish industries also promote, although not as obvious. The virtues of chicken and fish protein as healthy is often promoted through so called mainstream articles written in health related magazines and publications. These articles are written by dieticians, doctors, researchers and reporters often funded indirectly by associations promoting these industries to make sure consumers continue to buy.
Not many realize that the protein found in animal foods comes from the foods they eat, they are synthesized after breaking down the foods they eat. So when eating animal foods, you’re getting your protein essentially ’second hand’.
Although many still believe that meat is the only good source of protein and vegans are asked the “Where do you get your protein from?” question far more times than they would like, there is hope at in the end of the tunnel. The vegan movement it getting momentum and many studies today are proving that you can get not only all the protein you need but also all the vitamins and minerals needed from a plant-based diet.