Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Protein" Does Not Equal "Meat"

The meat industry has ingrained in the American psyche the idea that "protein" = "meat." It's a deception.

All food contains protein. If you are consuming adequate calories from a variety of foods, you are getting enough protein.

Here are some foods along with their protein amounts:

Sweet potato, 1 cup cooked, 4g
Kale/collards/chard/spinach, 8 ounces (about 1 cup), boiled, 8g
Romaine lettuce, 2 cups, raw, 2g
Tomato, 3 inch, raw, 2g
Brown rice, long grain, 1 cup cooked, 5g
Oatmeal, cooked with water, 1 cup, 6g
Popcorn, 2 cups, air-popped, 2g
Red potato, baked, 3.5 inch, 7g
Lentils, 1 cup cooked, 18g
Kidney beans or black beans, 1 cup, boiled, 15g
Peas, frozen, boiled, 1/2 cup, 4g
Almonds, 1 ounce, 6g
Raisins, 1 small box, 1g
Orange, 2.5 inches, 1g

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein for a 120-pound adult is 43.5 grams/day (0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight). For a 180-pound adult it's 65 grams/day.

If I ate just the items in bold, I would surpass my protein requirements for the day. And I would not be eating meat or any other food of animal origin. I wouldn't even be eating any soy products.

In the US, there is a greater risk for getting too much protein than for getting too little. Anyone with compromised liver or kidney function (e.g many people with established diabetes or hypertension) are put upon to rid the body of excess nitrogen in the protein's amino acids. And there's that ominous graph showing the more protein you eat, the more calcium you excrete.


Unknown said...

(DISCLAIMER: I'm not any kind of nutrition expert, just someone with some family health issues using the internet to find answers)

I still like to play it safe and know certain vegetable foods that are high in limiting amino acids.

According to Wikipedia: "Apart from some exceptions such as quinoa or soybeans, vegetable sources of protein are more often lower in one or more essential amino acids than animal sources, especially lysine, and to a lesser extent methionine and threonine."

So using Nutrition Data's advanced search, spirulina, parsley, chives, peppers (sweet, red or green) and even mashed potatoes had decent amounts of each of the EAA's listed above.

I'm still iffy about spirulina's safety as well as cost, chives and parsley are fairly high in oxalic acid (gout and kidney stones in my family), so peppers and potatoes win for my family, that avoids lentils, soybeans and mushrooms when my brother (gout) might eat with us, for they're fairly high in purines for being vegetable sources.

And I won't serve the somewhat expensive quinoa to my brother or father due to oxalates:

Quinoa is not a commonly allergenic food and is not known to contain measurable amounts of purines. However, like all members of the Amaranthaceae-Chenopodiaceae plant family, quinoa does contain oxalates. The oxalate content of quinoa ranges widely, but even the lower end of the oxalate range puts quinoa on the caution or avoidance list for an oxalate-restricted diet.

But for people not having to watch out for oxalic acid, parsley and sweet peppers will help cover those limiting amino acids. And quinoa too.

Bix said...

Shreela, you missed your calling. That's great info. I was looking up lysine recently for something, I forget, but I wonder then if seaweed in general is a good source for lysine.

I was just responding to a few conversations I had recently where I was on the receiving end of "Where do you get your protein?" It would have been more fair of me to say that meat is a great source, but it's not the only source.

Angela and Melinda said...

I agree w/ you Bix, that there are plenty of other sources, but I was under the impression (from some long-ago reading, don't remember what now) that often the veggie protein is not as readily available to your body. Is that the case, or is it just a myth? Thanks!

Unknown said...

Thanks Bix, sorry about posting your blog page as wikipedia's reference, I've had sinus headaches on and off the last few days (including now, but the benedryls are kicking in).

Agar (dried) only had a ~tilde~ for each amino acid (per 28 g/1 oz)

Kelp (raw) has 8.2 mg lysine per 1 TBSP

Wakame (raw) has 11.2 mg lysine per 2 TBSP (10g)

Laver/Nori (raw) has 57.7 mg lysine per 10 sheets / 26g)

Spirulina (dried) has 3387 mg per 1 cup/112g)

Here's the seaweed search results page: use the MORE DETAILS blue button to expand the Protein and Amino Acids

Dr. Mel, these articles go into great detail about proteins and bioavailability of different types of proteins:

Bix said...

I've run across that nutribodyprotein site before. Just a staggering amount of good info for a sales site.

Bix said...

Well, that answers my question about seaweeds, they sound similar to land-based greens. But for iodine maybe?

(I love your attention to detail.)

Laurie Endicott Thomas said...

Nutrition scientists have known for more than a century that human beings don't need to worry about protein deficiency as long as they are getting enough calories from any practical plant-based diet and aren't suffering from a major worm infection or a rare metabolic disorder.

A high intake of animal protein is the main cause of calcium oxalate and uric acid kidney stones.