Protein is probably one of the BIGGEST myths existing today which originated in the USA, and one of the most asked questions that vegan or vegetarian people are asked is "Where do vegans get their protein?" There is a big myth going on around this topic, which I want to destroy in this article.
Why is our society so concerned about protein? When and how was the myth about protein born? How much protein do we need daily? Do we have to have animal protein? Does plant protein cover the body needs?
Every search I make ends up in explanations of how much and what kind of protein we should eat. Let me start diving into this topic by telling you that human cells contain 1 to 3 billion proteins. There are over 126,060 atomic-resolution structures of proteins. And all of this is created on daily basis by our own body. Even if we stop eating any food at all, our body will still keep creating these proteins. The statement that our body needs additional protein is nothing, but a big myth created by USDA in the 20th century when they were reconsidering the food pyramid which later was adopted by many other countries. The good question here is, WHY? Why did the USDA decide to promote animal proteins so much? Yes, in fact no one was even considering plant proteins back then. The answer is that the food pyramid is overly influenced by the agricultural industries the USDA was and is promoting. Since the meat industry is a big part of the USDA income and interest, they started to actively promote protein intake in the beginning of the 20th century and then even more actively in the 1980's. Plus, there are indications of corruption reported when USDA gets paid to promote something.
When people turn to veganism, they bring this myth into their new lifestyle. Today the majority of vegans mistakenly believes they need to cover the protein intake and intentionally add beans, nuts, and certain vegetables into their diet just for protein purpose. Athletes believe they need protein, parents believe their kids growing bodies need protein, pregnant women believe they need protein, old people believe they need protein. The world became protein crazy. Protein mixes, drinks, bars, meals, protein, protein, and more protein. I even heard some doctor saying that the most important food on Earth is protein. This myth is probably one of the biggest and strongest food myths believed today. But just think about it, when you do your blood work, how many times has a doctor told you, "Hey, bad news, your proteins are too low?" There is no such thing as low protein! You won't hear a doctor saying it to you no matter what diet you are on.
The truth is, we do not need to consume any protein intentionally at all. Our body does not need it in order to build new cells. It builds new cells without us helping it in any way. There are millions of examples proving this statement. If you try to research this topic and find out WHY do we need proteins, most likely you will find such answers as "our cells are made of protein, so we need to eat protein" "proteins break into amino acids and those help to build new cells." It almost sounds to me like, "cars are made out of metal so we need to fill them with more metal, or they will not run."
When I was pregnant with my child, my doctor kept saying to me again and again that I need to drink cow milk, eat cottage cheese, and eat animal protein. She was saying, "you can't give birth to a healthy child if you at least don't eat eggs and have dairy products. Eat some chicken at least sometimes." When my absolutely healthy, "protein starving" child was born, 1 hour later she was holding her first bottle with her own hands. Doctors and nurses were amazed. They were saying they have never seen anything like this, and newborns don't even have that ability yet.
Her pediatrician was recommending adding meat into her diet or at least dairies as she was growing. Today my child is 6 years old. She has never had meat or dairy products and she is one of the healthiest children. She is one of the tallest and brightest in her class and everything in her body works and grows perfect.
There are millions of people who have raw food diet and barely consume even plant proteins. Still they are extremely healthy and even much healthier than people who eat meat and lots of plant protein.
I can give you extreme examples of people living without any protein intake at all, just to show you that it is not essential for muscle building.
Here is Jericho Sunfire. Jericho is a fruitarian, which means he only lives on fruits. Fruitarianism is a big movement and there are millions of people living this diet and feeling good and healthy.
Ray Mayor is even more extreme. He is Breatharian. Breatharians believe that a person can give up food and water altogether and live purely off prana, which they also call "living on light" or "living on air." They replace physical food with air and light. Ray says he eats very occasionally, and he wrote a book "A Year Without Food" in which he shares his personal experience.
If this all is not convincing enough for you and you still worry about protein intake, you need to watch out because there is a big chance you might be overeating it. If you eat a variety of only vegan foods during the day, you are getting your protein more than enough. If on top of this diet you start adding meat, eggs, dairy or even worse, protein shakes and bars, you are seriously overeating your protein.
There is another big myth related to proteins. In some diets is believed that eating a lot of protein will automatically make you lose weight. Protein doesn't deserve a weight-loss attribute. If it really did Americans would be the skinniest nation because Americans are the most protein consuming country in the world. Too much protein ends up being stored as fat.
PROTEIN SIDE EFFECTS
Too much protein can cause kidney disease. It especially applies to diabetic people because kidneys are weakened by sugar and it's easier for protein to hurt them. Protein causes a lot of stress on your kidneys. It helps to build urea in the bloodstream. The body produces urea, a compound, during the digestion of protein. When the kidneys stop functioning correctly, urea builds up in the blood and causes symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, and loss of appetite. A 2018 review of 17 studies handled by the National Kidney Foundation reports that very low protein intake may slow down the progression of advanced kidney failure.
Phenylketonuria Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a disorder that occurs when the body does not produce the enzyme needed to break down an amino acid called phenylalanine. Eating foods rich in protein can cause phenylalanine to build up in the body. It can lead to intellectual disability and other neurological symptoms, such as hyperactivity, poor coordination, and seizures.
Homocystinuria Homocystinuria is another disorder that affects the body’s ability to process methionine amino acid. A buildup of methionine, due to consuming high amount of proteins, causes problems with vision and bone health.
Weight Gain If you are a man, you should not eat more than 63 g of protein a day. For a woman, the number is 52 g a day. Too much protein will end up stored as fats in your body. 63 g and 52 g are very easy to receive from food with just 1 breakfast. Most people overeat protein tremendously and no doctor will blame the consequences on protein because the myth is strong and doctors most of the time don't consider protein for a reason.
The shift from foods to nutrients in the 1980's has not got us anywhere. We need nine essential amino acids in our diet, but contrary to popular belief, they don't have to come in one food, one single meal or even in one single day. So, you can feel like you are let off the hook from having to worry about eating a certain amount of protein. If you simply eat a variety of whole foods, without overeating and incorporating lots of produce, all your body's needs will naturally be taken care of as an automatic and lovely side effect.