Updated: May 2, 2020
Let’s talk about the ”protein myth”. The biggest myth of all. The MOTHER of all nutrition myths. So what is the protein myth? it’s the idea that you have to eat meat in order to get the protein your body needs.
Let’s start with what you actually need. Yes, your body does need protein.
In fact it is the only way for your body to get what are called “essential amino acids”, because those are the nine amino acids that your body can’t produce – so you have to eat them. And amino acids are the building blocks of ALL life. Without them, your body can’t build bone, muscle … nothing. Proteins ARE important.
The best advice from nutrition scientists is that you need between 5-10% of your calories to come from protein. So on a 2000 calorie per day diet that means 25-50g of protein, because every gram of protein has 4 calories.
Which leads us to the protein myth – that you need to eat meat to get that protein. Are animal products the only way to get protein? A LOT of people do believe that to be the case. They think that fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates and that meat is protein.
But think about it. If we need protein, then doesn’t it stand to reason that other animals need protein too?
Like an elephant?
Or a rhino? Where do they get their protein? They don’t eat meat after all.
So where do animals like the elephant, which is the largest land mammal on the plant, get their protein? How do they get to be so big?
Yes, it turns out that basically ALL plants have protein as well as carbohydrates and even fat. The idea that plants don’t have protein is simply not true. That’s the myth.
And remember those ”essential amino acids” that we talked about?. Turns out that humans aren’t the only ones that can’t make them. In fact NO Mammals can synthesize those amino acids – we ALL have to eat them to survive. So that cow that you are eating? … that cow didn’t make those essential amino acids either – it had to eat then – and it got them … from plants.
In fact, and you may want to sit down for this one … PLANTS ARE THE ONLY DIETARY SOURCE OF ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS. So that protein you are eating when you eat steak? It’s made from amino-acids that came from plants. The cow is just the middle-man … or middle-moo.
But … “I’ve heard that plant-based protein sources are ’incomplete’ – they don’t have all nine essential amino acids.”
Once again, the elephant in the room.
If they aren’t “complete proteins” then how is it that so many animals like an elephant can only eat plants and still grow up to be elephants and cows and horses and so on?
The fact is that basically ALL plants have all of the essential amino acids. That’s because they basically all start with the same 20 DNA-encoded amino-acids in order to make proteins in the first place. Plants make proteins in basically the same way that animals do.
You might wonder, “can I actually get enough protein just from eating plants?”, after all I’m not likely to eat 30 pounds of grass in a day like an elephant does.
The answer is yes. In fact, research shows the humans on a plant-based diet typically get about twice as much protein as they need.
So let’s recap:
Your body needs protein in order to get all nine essential amino acids.
The essential Amino acids aren’t synthesized in ANY ANIMALS. They come from plants. Only plants. Plants, plants, plants. So when you are eating meat, the amino acids you are getting from animal proteins are recycled plant amino acids.
No you don’t need to get that protein from meat, because plants have ALL of the required amino acids.
A balanced diet including veggies, grains, beans, and nuts can not only give you enough protein on a daily basis, but enough of ALL NINE of the essential amino acids.
The bottom line is, if you are eating meat you are killing animals basically to get at the amino acids that came from a plant in the first place. Why not just skip the animal and eat the plants instead?