Proteins are essential to the human body. They are needed for the body growth and repair; building and maintaining muscles and other soft tissues.
Every cell in our bodies is partly composed of proteins. Protein is a structural material required for growth, repair and replacement of damaged tissues. The make antibodies and hormones and help to regulate our fluid and electrolyte balance.
I have been asked this question most days of my vegan life so I thought I’d best write a blog about it to explain the protein myth.
First of all, all protein is made by plants. Humans and animal do not produce protein.
Essentially, omnivores get recycled protein through the consumption of animals. Herbivores get their protein directly form the plant.
Greens, beans are all loaded with protein. Along with lentils, tofu, black beans, quinoa, green beans, hemp seeds, oatmeal, chia seeds, tempeh, edamame, spinach, the list goes on.
There have been misconceptions in recent times that protein that can be obtained from plant-based foods does not provide all the essential amino acids.
In total, there are twenty three different amino acids, fifteen that the body manufactures on it’s own and eight that the body cannot produce and must come from our diet. These 8 are considered the essential amino acids.
Meat eaters can consume all essential amino acids by consuming meat, whereas vegetarians and vegans must consume a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in order to ensure consumption of all 8 essential amino acids. Eg: Being vegetarian or vegan doesn’t always equal perfect health. It all depends on what you consume.
The concept of amino acids is a complex one however, to understand it, Dr. T Campbell describes is nicely in The China Study. “It’s like someone is giving us a multicoloured string of beads to replace an old string of beads that we lost. However, the coloured beads on the strings given to us are not in the same order as the string we lost. So, we break the string and collect it’s beads. Then we reconstruct our new string so that the coloured beads are in the same order as our lost strings.”
While a meat-eater would argue that animal flesh contains all 8 essential amino acids and some plant proteins as a strand may be lacking in one or more of these essential amino acids, as a group, they do contain all of them.
We go further into the plant-based essential amino acids in the 8 weeks to vegan program.