Plant Based Protein
Be Real - Eat Real
If you are contemplating a plan based diet, you are probably asking yourself "where will I get my proteins from?"
Contrary to common knowledge, a plant based diet can provide more than enough amount of good quality proteins. Below are five most commonly believed myths and the reality about proteins.
Myth #1: Protein is a harmless macro-nutrient:
Like other macros, we need protein in our diet. Protein is involved in virtually all of the body’s structural and functional mechanisms. All of our cells contain protein and it constitutes the building blocks of muscles, hair, nails, organs, skin, tendons, ligaments, enzymes, membranes, some hormones, hemoglobin, antibodies, enzymes, and much more. However, just because something is critical doesn’t mean that more is better. In fact, when it comes to protein, consuming an excess of what we need may promote disease.
The US Department of Agriculture’s Recommended Daily Allowance for protein is 0.7 grams per kilogram ideal body weight per day for adults older than 19 years of age. For an average 130-pound female, that means 47 grams of protein per day. For a 170-pound male, 62 grams is recommended. Excess protein taxes the kidneys, contributes to gout, and is associated with an increased risk for many chronic diseases such as cancer, and accelerated aging. So when it comes to protein intake, balance is the key.
Myth #2: “Complete Proteins” are Hard to Find:
There is a popular misconception is that animal products are the best source of protein. One important reason this myth has been perpetuated is because the amino acids—the building blocks of protein—are assembled in a way in animal foods that more closely resembles what humans actually utilize. However, we now know that this is inconsequential. When we consume any protein, it is broken down via digestion into its separate amino acid constituents and is pooled in the blood for further use. When the body needs to construct a protein for an enzyme or to repair muscles tissue, it collects the necessary amino acids and strings them back together in the sequence appropriate for what it is currently creating. This occurs regardless whether we consume animal or plant protein.
When we eat a variety of whole plants, we will easily attain all of the essential amino acids necessary to sustain proper metabolism and to thrive. Plus, plant protein is perfectly packaged along with an abundance of phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber—all critical components for optimal health and disease prevention. On the contrary, animal protein is wrapped up with unhealthy saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. Animal products are also devoid of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, and are very low in most vitamins and minerals.
Myth #3: The More Active You are, the More Protein You Need:
When we exercise, we breathe more and consume more oxygen. Does this mean we need to pour more oxygen in the air surrounding us? No. The oxygen content in our environment remains the same. Our bodies are smart enough to extract enough oxygen from the surrounding air (which stays the same at 17% oxygen) and meet the needs. Just like that, when we exercise, our metabolism increases. As a result, all three macro-components of the metabolism (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) are mobilized. Carbohydrates and fats are broken down and proteins are broken down as well as built to some degree depending upon our energy ratios. When it comes to building protein mass in the muscles, our bodies are smart enough to extract free amino acids from the pool of circulating amino acids we have in our system for this pool. Most human beings have sufficient amount in this pool and do not need to add too much more. In fact, not all of these amino acids are derived directly from diet. Some are derived from a process called autophagy which is body's own mechanism of breaking it's cell structures for recycling purposes. Consuming excessive and unhealthy amounts of extra proteins will only overload the system and cause damage as outlined above.
Myth # 4: Plant based foods contain less protein than their animal counterparts:
The reality can't be further from the truth. The reason why people believe such is because most people look at food measurements based upon macro-nutrient/weight ratio. So based upon this way of comparing plant vs animal foods, it would appear that animal based proteins are richer in protein. See below.
Measuring nutrient density based upon nutrient/weight ratio is the wrong way. This is because after all, it is not the weight of the food that we need. It is the energy or calories we need from food. So a better way of looking at nutrient density in general and protein density in specific is to look at nutrient/calories ratio. This is displayed below.
Myth # 5 Macros is all that I need to pay attention to. I can take a multi-vitamin for my micro-nutrients needs:
When it comes to the micro-nutrient kingdom, nothing (no matter how meaty) can beat the green leafy veggies. Plant based foods are loaded with micro-nutrients. This includes vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, phytonutreints, and a variety of anti-inflammatory substances. Contrary to common belief, we cannot meet our way to these nutrients via vitamins and supplements easily. This is because 1) our gut does not always absorb efficiently, 2) a lot of micro-nutrients are made by gut bacteria who become active only when they are fed plant based foods 3) our guts age just like we do and with that, our digestion and absorption becomes inefficient. Considering that, an unhealthy and processed plant based diet can also become very inadequate. So bottom line is that we need REAL and WHOLE FOODS to meet our needs. Plant based proteins bring us closer to meet our needs.
Below are some examples of protein content in plant based sources.
Macro-nutrient/weight ratio = Wrong way of looking at it
Macro-nutrient/calorie ratio = Right way of looking at it