Sunday, November 11, 2012

Animal Protein vs. Plant-based Protein

What Is Protein?

Protein is a macronutrient that is composed of amino acids, also known as building blocks. There are in total 21 amino acids, and these are broken down into 9 essentials and 12 non-essentials -- the non-essentials, meaning the body (the liver) can synthesize them by itself. The other 9 aminos are essential as the human body cannot make them in any way or cannot make a sufficient quantity. Given that the human body is lacking 9 aminos, humans must make up for that deficiency by making healthy eating choices, which the majority of us are scientifically clueless about making.

Basically, there are two types of proteins - plant protein and animal protein. Animal protein contains "higher-quality" proteins, that is, they may contain all of the essential amino acids, but these proteins are not necessarily "better quality" proteins (reasons given below). Plant proteins, except in instances like quinoa and soybean (soy however is highly genetically modified and estrogenic), do not contain all of the essential proteins by themselves, but when combined with other plants having diverse amino acid patterns, all of the essential aminos can be provided. Therefore, eating a diverse diet as a vegan or vegetarian in order to get all of the complementary aminos is necessary.

From this information, it is clear that people can feed off of animal or only off of plants to get the proper amino acids for creating a healthy body.

How Much Protein Is Needed Daily (for Vegans)?

The industry standard for vegans is 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This is a bit higher than the RDA standard because non-animal protein sources are not as available or complete (in qualitity) in amino acids as vegetarian ones. The easist way to calculate individual needs is to multiply .45 grams by a person's body weight in pounds to get the average. Or for the active athlete who wants to increase the protein intake to maintain or build muscle, figure 1.3 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight. Following is the conversion formula:

To convert lbs to kg (lb = 2.2 kg). Protein intake (grams) = (weight in kg multiplied by .9)

What Is the Function of Protein?

The body needs proteins to grow, repair or replace tissue. Sometimes proteins facilitate or regulate bodily functions; other times they become part of a structure. Following are some roles that protein plays within the body:
  • Proteins are building blocks of muscles, blood, intestines, bone, teeth, skin, hair and nails. Collagen is a fibrous protein known to be the elastin and structure of skin, vessels, etc and is found both inside and outside of the cells. Collage makes us about 25% of the protein within the body.
  • Some proteins act as enzymes. Enzymes break down substances (like food) and build substances (like bones).
  • Some hormones are proteins, examples: Growth hormone (promotes growth), insulin and glucagon (regulates blood sugar), thyroxin (regulates metabolic rate), calcitonin and parathormone (regualtes blood calcium) and antidiuretic hormone (regulates fluid and electrolyte balance).
  • Proteins are regulators of fluid balance, a very important role for preventing swelling and water retention.
  • Proteins help maintain the balance between acids and bases within the body fluids.
  • Proteins act as transporters carrying important nutrients like vitamins and minerals and other molecules. Some proteins act as pumps maintaining the perfect balance of nutrients inside and outside of the cell walls.
  • Proteins defend the body against disease in the form of antibodies. Antibodies are giant protein molecules designed specifically to combat "antigens", otherwise known as viruses and bacteria.
  • Proteins are used as a source of energy when other sources like carbohydrates are not available.
  • Proteins participate in blood clotting and vision.

Why Is Animal Protein Unhealthy for the Human Body?

The type of protein consumed makes a dramatic effect on the body. While protein is necessary for sustaining life and bodily functions, proteins from harmful sources or in high consumption actually are detrimental to the body. The average person in the United States consumes between 70-100 grams of protein a day. That is about double the recommended allowance, but the worst part is, the source of that protein is from animal flesh. Animal flesh is high in saturated fat, phosphorus, sulfurous amino acids, uric acid and nitrogen, not to mention that it throws the pH of the body off, creating an imbalance and a playground for cancer. So just what does animal flesh/protein do to the body:

Heart disease
Research has linked high intake of animal protein to high blood cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease.

Kidney Function (Gout & Kidney Stones)
The kidneys are the last filter for the body and have the role of excreting the end products of protein breakdown. When excess protein is consumed, the amino acids travel to the liver for a process call deamination. Deamination is the process of breaking down amino acids and converting them to ammonia. Ammonia, a toxic compound to the body, is then converted to urea and uric acid. High levels of uric acid are very damaging to the kidney, due to their high acidic nature, and can lead to kidney stones and gout, a kind of arthritis.

Mineral Loss (Osteoporosis)
Animal proteins are rich in the sulphur-containing amino acids cysteine and nethionine. These amino acids are highly acidic which cause stress on maintaining acid-alkaline homeostasis in the body. In order to balance the acidity, the body draws calcium (alkaline) out of the soft tissues and the bones. As a result, this process can lead to osteoporosis (bone deterioration). A loss of calcium also affects muscle contraction/relaxation (cramps), blood clotting, and nerve transmission. Calcium is an integral part of the body's function and easily obtainable from many vegan food sources.

Obesity
Some researchers have suggested that a high intake of animal protein alters hormones and the body's response to hormones, including leptin, which regulates energy intake and expenditure as well as appetite. By altering leptin, a person may cause the body to become resistant, which means that the body will not receive the message of "fullness". As a result, a person may not feel full and will keep eating. Furthermore, animal protein is high in saturated fat, which is a calorie dense macronutrient, therefore, contributing to weight gain.

Cancer:
Based on extensive research done by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, diets that contain animal protein turn on cancer genes. Campbell discovered that a person could alter gene expression by changing the diet from an animal-based one to a plant-based diet. Campbell's book China Study is a 20-year study done by the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine, Cornell University and the University of Oxford. Other studies have shown that a diet high in animal protein foods increased a person's risk for colon, breast, pancreas and prostate cancer.

Following is a chart showing that more than sufficient amounts of  protein can be derived from plant sources. Plant-based proteins are more easily assimilated in the body and therefore eating less than is suggested by the RDA can satisfy and nourish the body well.

 
Nuts / Seeds (1/4 cup or 4 tbls)
Protein (g)
Chia seed
Hemp seed
Flax seed
Sunflower seed
Salba
Almond
Pumpkin seed
Sesame seed
Pistachio
Walnut
Brazil nut
Hazelnut
Pine nut
Cashew
12
10
8
8
7.4
7
7
7
6
5
5
5
4
4
Beans (1 cup cooked)
Protein (g)
Lentil
Adzuki
Cannellini (white bean)
Cranberry bean
Navy bean
Split pea
Anasazi
Black bean
Garbanzo (chick pea)
Kidney bean
Great northern bean
Lima bean
Pink bean
Black-eyed pea
Mung bean
Pinto bean
Green pea
18
17
17
17
16
16
15
15
15
15
15
15
15
14
14
14
9
Grains (1 cup cooked)
Protein (g)
Triticale
Millet
Amaranth
Oat, bran
Wild rice
Rye berries
Whole wheat
Couscous
Bulgar wheat
Buckwheat
Teff
Oat groats
Barley
Quinoa
Brown rice
Spelt
25
8.4
7
7
7
7
6
6
6
6
6
6
5
5
5
5
Vegetables (1 cup, cooked)
Protein (g)
Corn (I large cob)
Potato (with skin)
Mushroom, oyster (1 cup)
Avocado (1 raw fruit)
Collard greens (1 cup)
Peas (1/2 cup)
Artichoke (medium)
Broccoli (1 cup)
Brussel Sprouts (1 cup)
Mushroom, shitake (1 cup)
Fennel (1 medium bulb)
Swiss chard (1 cup)
Sweet potato (1 cup)
Kale (1 cup)
Asparagus (5 spears)
String beans (1 cup)
Beets (1 cup)
Cabbage (1 cup)
Carrot  (1 cup)
Cauliflower (1 cup)
Rutabaga
Squash (only zucchini and spaghetti)
Celery (1 cup)
Spinach (1 cup)
Bell pepper (1 cup)
Cucumber (1 cup, raw)
Eggplant (1 cup)
Leeks (1 cup)
Lettuce (1 cup, raw)
Okra (1/2 cup)
Onion (1/2 cup)
5
5
5
4
4
4
4
4
4
3.5
3
3
3
2.5
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

(This chart is taken from The Holy Kale and modified for the person with strict candida. All items crossed out are great vegan/vegetarian protein sources but either because of high glucose, gluten, are a nightshade, or for other reasons, these anti-inflammatories of candida must be stricken from the diet. There are still plenty of vegan choices for the person with candida to eat the proper amount of protein daily without feeling the need to eat animal protein, which in itself is very inflammatory.)

What Are My Personal Protein Choices?

Like many people who are vegan or vegetarian, my muscles have definitely gotten leaner. In the past 3 1/2 years my weight has great fluctuated, mostly in the first 1 1/2 years when no one including myself could figure out my problem. Once I figured out my problem, I could adjust my eating to ward off reaction, and therefore, not be on a weight gain-loss rollercoaster.
Even so, I have questioned my amounts of protein, one of the main reasons I was eating eggs for the past year or so. However, I have discovered another source of protein that is rich in vitamins, minerals and micronutrients - sprouts! When the seed is just maturing, it is at its richest nutritionally speaking, and is a phenomenal meat and egg replacement for those transitioning or just a way of ensuring that one is getting the proper amount of protein for maintaining the vital body function listed above.
Type of Sprout
Percent of protein
Alfalfa sprouts
Broccoli sprouts
Pea sprouts
Lentil sprouts
Radish sprouts
Red clover sprouts
Garbanzo bean sprouts
Mung sprouts
35%
35%
26%
26%
26%
26%
20%
20%
 
(percentages taken from The Healthy Eating Advisor)
 
So, I eat a variety of sprouts, hemp seed (one of those rare plant products that is a complete protein), spirula (another rare complete protein), nuts and seed, and many many vegetables. I've noticed that within the last few weeks, since being away from the fish eating I did in the US on vacation and upping my raw vegie intake, my nail health and hair quality are actually better. My nails are stronger and the color a bit pinker (paleness suggests anemia). Another comment on the escalating plant food in my diet is that early on after I first got systemic candida and started eating a 50+% raw food diet, my hair actually darkened! Victoria Boutenko, the raw foodist who really purports green smoothies, made that comment in either her book 12 Steps to Raw Foods or one of her books on green smoothies. Anyway, people started commenting that they didn't remember my hair being so dark, and I was that my hair had never had such body. Right! Victoria had written about some anti-aging factors related to a raw food diet, and my body changes are definitely supporting her analysis. 
 
 
Resources
 
Much of the above information was taken from a well-researched article at The Holy Kale.
For further studies in plant vs. animal protein, read T. Colin Campbell's phenomenally researched book The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health

No comments:

Post a Comment