The Protein Myth

When I told my mom I quit eating meat, the first thing she said was “You need protein!” I’ve heard it from so many people and I have to admit that before I changed my diet I’ve said that same thing to others before. It’s like an automatic knee jerk response and you can’t blame anyone either. Our USDA food pyramid told us that we required protein at every meal. Trusted doctors, dietary nutritionists and other medical practitioners still encourage eating massive amounts of protein. Many vegans and vegetarians even think they need way more protein than they actually do. It’s all just a big myth. I hope you will read this post with an open mind and also do some research for yourself. There are so many things we have been taught to be truths, only to find out years later are absolutely false. This is one of them. But like I said, don’t take my word for it, continue to search. Ask yourself, does this resonate with me?

First, lets look at protein.

What is Protein?

Protein is a nutrient that our bodies require for maintenance, repair and building of tissues in the body. Our bodies produce most of the amino acids except for 8 of them. These amino acids are manufactured in the liver. That is why it is so important to take care of your liver. The other 8 essential amino acids that must be obtained from our food. We can get these essential amino acids from plant foods. By the way, I noticed many reports say there are 9 essential amino acids and some say 8. I am citing Dr. John McDougall’s information that there are 8 essential amino acids.

What about this Protein Myth?

A very popular book that was published in 1971 contributed greatly to this protein myth. The book is Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé. It was a million copy bestseller. This book presented the idea that we need to combine different vegetables and other plant foods to form complete proteins. Her idea was that plants did not contain the essential amino acids, so we had to add “beans and rice,” for example, to form meals that contained complete proteins. Many people still do not know that this was found to be completely untrue. Lappé published another book ten years after, correcting this theory but it was not read by as many people. The truth is that all the essential amino acids are in plant foods. Your body will store these amino acids in between your meals. You do not need to get all the essential amino acids in one single meal.

Most people still believe that getting enough protein from plants is impossible. Why do we think we must eat meat and milk to be healthy? Advertising. Remember the “milk does a body good” campaign? The meat and dairy industries spend tons of money on magazine and television ads to convince us that we must have beef, milk, cheese, eggs,chicken and pork. What is the truth about meat being a complete source of protein? The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council states, “One of the biggest fallacies ever perpetuated is that there is any need for so-called ‘complete protein’.”

We should be more concerned with getting too much protein. Too much protein intake can cause all kinds of health problems. Protein cannot be stored by our bodies. It is first broken down by the liver and then by the kidneys and muscles. When we get too much of it, it overworks our liver and kidneys. Proteins are made up of amino acids, and are acidic. Animal proteins break down into sulfuric acid. These acids have to be neutralized by buffers which are found in our bones. This buffering eventually causes a weakened condition of the bones popularly known as osteoporosis. Bone materials that are released will often settle in the kidney system causing kidney stones. Other health problems caused by excessive protein intake are premature aging, high blood pressure,type-2 diabetes, kidney disease, high cholesterol, dehydration, bowel problems, food allergies, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory arthritis, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The World Health Organization recommends women, men and children get 5% of their calories from protein. They recommend pregnant women get 6%.

T. Colin Campbell, a renowned Cornell University professor of nutritional biochemistry and author of The China Study says that we require 5-6% of our total calories come from protein.

So the real question is: Are you getting enough amino acids from LIVE plant sources?