Demystifying our concerns about ‘getting enough animal protein’
Teaching a nation to eat correctly, saves a nation. That's why it is so important to understand nutrition.
Plant versus Animal Protein
Some primary functions of proteins in our bodies are:
1.Proteins are building blocks of our bodies. They repair worn out tissues e.g. when we are injured they help mend injured tissues.
2.Proteins are involved in the creation of some hormones e.g. insulin a hormone that regulates the level of sugar in our blood.
3.Proteins are also involved in the transportation of oxygen e.g. haemoglobin is a protein that transport oxygen throughout the body.
4.Formation of antibodies. Proteins form antibodies as part of our immune system to fight of infections and other illnesses.
How much protein do we need on a daily basis?
An average person only needs one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight with the exception of sportsmen who may need slightly more. This means if you weigh 60kg you only need 60g of protein on average. The current trends show that on average people consume more protein than recommended.
Sources of Protein
The body is quite capable of producing protein from the foods we eat from plant or animal origin. However, there are 9 essential amino acids that the body cannot produce, therefore these must come from our diet. An animal protein is a complete protein whereas plant protein is not always complete. This means one needs a variety of foods to get all essential amino acids e.g. rice and beans will give you all 9 essential amino acids. Quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed are listed amongst plant based foods that consists of all 9 essential amino acids.
The Downside of Animal Protein
Even though animal protein provides us with all 9 essential amino acids but we also get saturated fats, cholesterol, residual hormones and antibiotics with it. We all know that these are not good for our health in the long term. A varied diet that is rich in plants is much better for our long term health.
The Upside of Plant Protein
Even though each plant does not always give us a complete protein but all plants in combination give us the required amounts and types of amino acids. The advantage of deriving our protein from plants is the fact that we always need to eat a variety of plants at any given time. This not only provides us with protein but with fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals not obtainable from animals. Plant diet helps lower our cholesterol levels because plant oils contain zero cholesterol.