by David Anttony
The world was once flat and then it became round. We used to be in the middle of the galaxy and now we are on the edge. Isn't it amazing how some things change! This is the same with the world of diet and nutrition. Fortunately for people's health the dietary world is at last becoming round and thanks to science we get to know the real picture.
There are many people that still believe that more is better when it comes to protein in the diet.
Let us have a look at how we can round out this flattened viewpoint.
Good Old Cells
Cells are the building blocks of all our food. In order for a cell to exist it must have protein. It doesn't matter if the cell is from an animal or a plant-based source, it will still have protein.
The only difference between animal and plant-based proteins is the level. Having higher levels, as we will soon find out, is not necessarily better for you.
A Little Bit of Technical 'Stuff'
Proteins are broken down in our bodies to form amino acids. Plant-based foods contain all the essential amino acids required by our bodies. Some foods may be low in one kind of amino acid, such as grains are low in lysine. However, legumes such as lentils for example, are much higher in lysine.
By eating a variety of food you will get all the amino acids, i.e. proteins, you need. In fact, soy protein is equivalent in value to proteins of animal origin and can be used as a sole source of protein.
Plant-Based Diets Have Been Validated
The American Dietetic Association has said in its Position Statement on plant-based diets:
"Plant sources of protein alone can provide adequate amounts of the essential and non-essential amino acids, assuming that dietary protein sources from plants are reasonably varied and that caloric intake is sufficient to meet energy needs. Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds and nuts all contain essential and non-essential amino acids".
Less is Better than More
You may think that it is better to get more protein because it is better for your body. The only problem though with eating too much protein is that the body can't store it.
If you eat more protein in a meal that what your body can use your body has to excrete the excess. This is fine until you
realize that the by-product your body creates after it has digested protein is ammonia. As you know ammonia may be good for cleaning your toilets but it's not that hot when it's in your blood stream!
Ammonia is converted by the liver into a less toxic substance - uric acid. Because uric acid is still very acidic to our bodies it can affect the use of alkaline nutrients in the blood stream such as calcium. Hence there is a strong link now emerging between osteoporosis and excessive protein consumption.
The kidneys eventually excrete the uric acid as urea in the urine.
Babies only need 1.03% Protein to turn into a Bouncing Toddler
The chart below shows the standard protein amounts for a selection of foods including human breast milk.
As can be seen, a baby only requires 1.03g of protein per 100g to grow rapidly into a bouncing young toddler as nature intended. Obviously as adults we need far less protein than a growing baby whose weight more than doubles in a few months.
Will the 'Real' King of the Jungle Please Stand Up!
If we want to look further into the protein myth we only need to look at nature and at the jungle.
Which do you think is the most powerful animal in the jungle? If you were to say a lion then why do lions stay away from and fear elephants? Maybe it's because elephants are around thirteen times heavier and goodness known how much stronger than male lions!
Elephants only eat plant-based foods and live for 55-65 years where lions and tigers live around 20 years - three times shorter! Compare also the sleep time of an elephant to that of a lion and we get an even more interesting picture. Elephants sleep on average around three hours a day compared to 13 hours for a lion.
Increase Your Own Energy and Health
More and more people are increasing their consumption of plant-based foods ands reaping the benefits of increased short and long-term health as well as increasing their energy at the same time.