Protein is essential to a wide range of bodily functions and in building and repairing muscle. No argument there. What I do object to is how the meat and dairy industries have spent millions, if not billions, on convincing us that the only source of high quality protein are their products.
This is simply not true.
Proteins consist of twenty amino acids, of which eleven are naturally synthesized by our body. We are able to get the remaining nine, which are also known as Essential Amino Acids, from the foods we eat and the nutritional support with which we complement our diet.
So to be clear, our body needs to ingest these nine Essential Amino Acids, not protein per se. This is a key point since these Essential Amino Acids are available from a wide variety of plant based foods, and thus are certainly not the exclusive domain of animal products.
The argument that animal based protein is more complete is disingenuous. Although the process of breaking down animal-based proteins into it components is different than to absorb plant-based Essential Amino Acids, the net result is the same with one exception: plant-based sources do not bring with them the saturated fat and casein present in meat and dairy.
The truth is that a whole food, plant-based diet will give you everything that you need to be healthy and to function at peak levels. As with any diet, you need to be smart about it in terms of making sound choices and incorporating a wide variety of foods such as:
- Nuts and Nut Butters
- Seeds (e.g., chia, sesame, sunflower)
- Legumes (e.g., green peas, edamame, chickpeas)
- Grains (e.g., quinoa)
- Vegetables (e.g., leafy greens)
So do not be fooled by food industry marketing campaigns. You can ingest an ample supply of Essential Amino Acids without consuming any dairy or meat products. Find a dietary regimen that works well for you, but ensure that it consists of whole foods and is primarily plant-based. There are lean sources of animal protein, of course, so once again, find what works best for you and stick to it.
For more thoughts on diet, particularly one that is cancer-smart, please see: