The hype around PROTEIN reminds me when the ‘Orange is the New Black’ series came out. We became addicted (or was it just me??) and just had to have our daily fix.
All the Marketing hype has got us worried about our Protein intake. Are we getting enough? Is MORE better? What are the best sources? Are plant-based Proteins going to do the job? Protein powders, bars, and shakes which are best?
It is exhausting just thinking about it right?
So, let’s separate some of the MYTHS from the TRUTHS.
MYTH No. 1
If we don’t bulk up on more Protein we’re going to end up with a deficiency.
TRUTH: It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever suffer from Protein deficiency. While some people may have a low intake of protein, a deficiency is uncommon in the Western world. More often it is found in developing countries, where there’s limited access to a range of foods and famine is present.
Look let’s make no mistake, Protein is necessary. It’s the main building block of muscles, organs, skin, and hair. It regulates metabolism, helps in the production of hormones and enzymes, supports the immune system, maintains fluid balance and helps in the formation of blood cells and blood clotting.
Protein is made up of individual Amino acids (AA’s), 20 in total. Now the body is pretty smart… knowing it needs some basic Proteins to function, it makes sure it produces some vital AA’s itself – we call these ‘Non-essential Amino Acids’ because we don’t need to get them from food. There’s 11 in total… Alanine, Arginine, Asparagine, Aspartic acid, Cysteine, Glutamic acid, Glutamine, Glycine, Proline, Serine, and Tyrosine.
The other nine AA’s need to be sourced from food, as the body can’t make them – we call these Essential Amino Acids’. While there are nine, adults only need to obtain eight of them: Valine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine and Tryptophan. The ninth amino acid, Histidine, is only essential for infants.
MYTH No. 2
The body NEEDS Animal Protein – A Complete Protein
TRUTH: The body can derive ALL the amino acids it needs from Plant Proteins.
“But How?”, you ask …
Because, wait for it….plants make Protein NOT animals.
Protein is made when plants combine nitrogen from the soil, and air with carbon and other elements to form amino acids. They then link these amino acids to make Proteins. Animals eat the plants – you eat the animal – you get the Protein. Basically, Animal protein is recycled plant protein. So why not go straight to the source – PLANTS ?
While animal Protein, is often referred to as a complete Protein i.e. it usually contains all essential AA’s; it’s also known to have too much of one type amino acid and be low in others. This can cause issues with digestion, as undigested Protein particles in the warmth of the gut can putrefy and irritate the lining of the gut, causing bloating, heartburn, flatulence and the feeling of food sitting in the stomach. Animal Proteins have also been linked to colon, prostate and breast cancers (1). Plant-derived proteins are associated with lower mortality than animal-derived proteins (2).
When you eat plant-based sources of Protein, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds you also get a burst of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and all-important FIBRE. You see, it is Fibre that keeps you healthy by feeding your Gut Microbiome – your inner garden of beneficial gut flora.
Here are some examples of plant-based foods that contain ample amounts of Protein. There are a lot more, but this is a snapshot…
|Edamame (cooked)||1 cup||18|
|Lupin (uncooked)||¼ cup||16|
|Black beans (cooked)||½ cup||7.6|
|Amaranth (cooked)||1 cup||7|
|Wild rice (cooked)||1 cup||6.5|
|Chia seeds||2 tbsp||6|
|Buckwheat (cooked)||1 cup||6|
|Hemp seeds||2 tbsp||5|
|Oatmeal (uncooked)||¼ cup||5|
|Pumpkin seeds||¼ cup||5|
|Brussel sprouts||½ cup||2|
Checking your daily recommended requirements (below), you’ll see it’s not difficult to obtain your daily requirements eating a diet rich in plant-based foods…
- Adult Women – 0.75 g per kg of body weight.
- Adult Men – 0.84 g per kg of body weight.
- Pregnant/Breastfeeding/Over 70yrs old – 1 g per kg of body weight
MYTH No. 3
MORE Protein equals Better health
TRUTH: More is NOT better for your health. As adults we only need to eat only enough protein to replace what is lost from daily Protein breakdown. As the body can’t store protein, and excretes any excess, so the best way to consume Protein is small amounts over the course of the day.
In fact, many people are consuming WAY too much Protein and because the excess can’t be stored it strains the liver and kidneys as the body works hard to eliminate it. This can result in dehydration and constipation, as water is needed to digest the excess Protein and remove waste. Not to mention smelly breath, low mood, gut issues and putting on weight.
And to top it off, high Protein intake is has been linked to increased cancer, diabetes, and overall mortality (2).
MYTH No. 4
High Protein consumption helps to shed excess kilos.
TRUTH: Long-term Protein-centric diets can actually cause Weight gain – eeek!! A study with more than 7,000 participants revealed that those who ate more Protein were more likely to become overweight compared to those who consumed less (3). And more recent research shows us that it is FIBRE that keeps at a healthy weight. You get Fibre from PLANTS, not Animal products.
So, in a nutshell…
YES, you need some Protein, not a heap of it. Animal sources are NOT the best source. PLANTS give you Protein, Fibre and SO much more.
And if you’re still not convinced… Have you ever heard of any doctor telling patients to go home and eat more beef and bacon to improve health?? Nope. In fact, we’re always being told to eat more fruit and vegetables because of the amazing health outcomes they bring.
Hopefully, now, you can see why PLANTS are your best go-to for Protein.
Yours in Health
(1) Farvid, Maryam S,. Cho, Eunyoung,. Chen, Wendy Y. et al. Dietary protein sources in early adulthood and breast cancer incidence: prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal Publishing Group. 2014. http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g3437.abstract
(2) Morgan E.L., Jorge A.S,. Sebastian B. et al. Low Protein Intake Is Associated with a Major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer, and Overall Mortality in the 65 and Younger but Not Older Population. Cell Metabolism. 2014. Volume 19, Issue 3, 4 March 2014, Pages 407-417 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2014.02.006
(3) Hernández-Alonso P, Salas-Salvadó J, Ruiz-Canela M, Corella D, Estruch R, Fitó M, Arós F, Gómez-Gracia E, Fiol M, Lapetra J, Basora J, Serra-Majem L, Muñoz MÁ, Buil-Cosiales P, Saiz C, Bulló M. High dietary protein intake is associated with an increased body weight and total death risk.Clin Nutr. 2016 Apr;35(2):496-506. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2015.03.016. Epub 2015 Apr 7. PubMed PMID: 25886710.