Let’s take a closer look at protein. Many people who are asked how they get protein immediately think of a steak or hamburger, but let’s break that down a bit further.
Where does the cow that’s the source of the steak or burger get their protein? When you think about it, you realize that all a cow eats is grass and grains. How is it possible that such a large, strong, muscular animal who also has bones powerful enough to carry all that weight, gets that way only eating plants?
What is Protein Made Of?
Protein is created from amino acids. The body makes some of its own amino acids, but it also needs to absorb amino acids from food. These are called “essential amino acids” and they come from plants.
When you eat any kind of meat, which is the protein the animal made for its ability to stand, move, walk and run, that protein does not automatically become human protein. Your right biceps is not made of chicken breast and your left hamstring is not made of a steak.
When meat is ingested, the body first has to break it completely down into amino acids. Then, it has to rebuild human protein the normal way, which means using the amino acids that originally came from plants, to create human muscle. At the same time, the body ingests many things it does not need from the meat, such as fats and cholesterol that lead to heart disease.
Essential Amino Acids
Humans need to consume 9 essential amino acids to develop protein:
All 9 of these amino acids are found in foods such as rice and beans, quinoa, leafy green vegetables, fruits, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread, and many other healthy options.
When a diet rich in beans, grains, greens, rice and fruits is eaten, then the body gets all of the essential amino acids it needs to make human protein. In addition, the body gains the benefit of phytonutrients and flavonoids. These are made by plants.
Phytonutrients and flavonoids protect the body. Research shows they play an important role in preventing or slowing cancerous tumor growth, they provide anti-oxidants that slow cellular aging, and they promote healthy digestion.
A large body of research supports the benefits of getting protein building blocks from plant sources, because of all the health protective benefits plants provide. Studies also show that individuals who avoid meat in favor of plant based diets live longer.
Finally, the consumption of beef and milk is correlated with a higher risk of breast cancer, according to new research out of U.C. Berkley, and there are many studies that demonstrate the connection between meat eating and other cancers.
Many people are afraid of transitioning to healthier choices. Starting with a commitment such as “Meatless Mondays” is a step in the right direction. The good news is many restaurants are catching on to the dietary preferences of a more informed public.
Eating a healthy diet based on science is becoming increasingly mainstream.
Start by adding choices. Include plants in the diet every day. Always start a meal with a salad or piece of fruit. Experiment with ways to prepare vegetables you find delicious, such as pan roasting in olive oil with spices. Explore ethnic foods such as Lebanese and Indian options that are vegetable and legume based.
A diet rich in a variety of plant foods provides all the building blocks of protein needed. It reduces the risk of cancer and introduces protective phytonutrients.
Adding plant based proteins and greens to the diet makes you feel better.
Individuals who transition report feeling healthier, having a reduction in inflammatory symptoms, losing weight and getting more energy. What could be better than that?
The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed medical professional. It is essential that you discuss with your primary care provider any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.
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