Thursday, June 11, 2009

Protein In Plant Food

Perovskia raised the point about protein in plant food. Some thoughts...

All living things contain DNA (well most, maybe not a prion, are prions living?). The function of DNA is to manufacture protein, that's it. So, all living things contain protein. Those proteins are found in structural components (muscles, plant cell walls), in chemicals like hormones, enzymes, immune cells, all over the place. Plant foods, as well as animal foods, provide these proteins to the human diet.

There are some differences between these food sources.

One, protein consists of amino acids. And each living thing we eat provides those amino acids in different ratios. (Which is why it's important to eat a variety of foods, although, as I showed here, you can get all your essential amino acids if all you ate were potatoes.)

Two, protein in vegetable matter is usually less bioavailable because of other compounds it comes packaged with. Where we might absorb 95% of the protein from animal foods, we might absorb 90% from plant foods. Lots of factors affect absorption though, so these are round figures.

The amount of protein we need is still debated. It's generally accepted that humans need about 0.8g/kg/day - that's 44g protein for a 120 lb person, 65g for a 180 lb person. And, of course, it varies depending on age, gender, life stage, body composition, etc.
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Photo of chimpanzee (is that a chimpanzee?) foraging from duiops.net. I read that they use their teeth to strip away outer bark of tender tree limbs to chew on pith and suckle sap.

13 comments:

Perovskia said...

Right.. so... *thinking outloud*... protein matter is found in plant food, but not as readily, as you said (because of other compounds. I would think fiber would be predominant). Western society dictates a high carbohydrate diet. Carbs turn to glucose and store as glycogen. Without said glycogen (er, enough of), the body burns protein and loses muscle tone.

For this reason I can see why the previous diet discussed would be beneficial - there's all sorts of carbs going on. And this is also why I'm torn (about the protein need).

Sigh.. now I'm getting ahead of myself.

Bix said...

I enjoy your open-mindedness.

I agree with you, there's a lot going on, so many factors intertwined. For me ... it's fun sorting them out.

The Evo Diet, there's many good aspects to it. But some parts don't work for me. How do you acquire, store, process (clean/peel/chop) that quantity of raw produce regularly, for families, for society? And eat it ... you'd be eating often. I think it would benefit from some cooked food. I also think our anatomy prefers more cooked food - compared to the anatomies of our primate relatives.

Dr. Mel said...

I *think* that's a young gorilla, tho not entirely sure.

I asked Gary about prions--they do not have DNA, nor are they a life form. They're a protein, but one that works "backwards," coming into a cell from the outside and forming a complex w/ RNA (no one fully understands how or why). But the prion somehow then manages to send a signal *back* to the DNA in the cell's gene(s), hence screwing up the gene(s). So prions are probably implicated in things like BSE or possibly even Creuzfeld (sp?)-Jacob disease.

Perovskia said...

Bix.. you make an interesting observation about needing or preferring cooked food. I'm still sitting with this (trying to balance what everyone's saying about a raw diet vs. what I believe - which is currently being challenged) so bear with me :)

Bix said...

It doesn't have the two-toned face of a chimpanzee, but that's what the site called it. I really like the photo.

Bix said...

Perovskia, there's a book I want to read, "Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human" by Richard Wrangham. He addresses that very thing.

Perovskia said...

Sounds interesting. Look forward to your review.

Jim said...

That's interesting information about getting adequate protein on a vegan diet. I have been coming to that same conclusion, despite a lot of screaming from some of my health professionals.

Luis said...

There's this amazing website that will give you the amino acid score of each particular vegetable you may be looking for:

http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2631/2

it also has the inflammation factor and the glicemic load, all it's missing is the PRAL score

Jim, the Guacamole Diet guy said...

Luis is right. I use NutritionData.com frequently. Another new favorite of mine is WolframAlpha.com. You can type almost any food into it, and the quantity or weight, and get lots of nutrition facts. And you can list up to 3 ingredients, separated by commas, and get the combined totals. Awesome!

Jim, the Guacamole Diet guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bix said...

omg, that is way cool, the Wolfram Alpha. I played around with it when it came out but hadn't tried any nutrition analysis on it. Thanks for that!

(Agreed, NutritionData is excellent.)

Ben said...

Interesting post here. I'll come back to read your next posts.