Thursday, February 19, 2009

Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein?

Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein?

Two kinds of proteins exist in the foods people eat: complete and incomplete. Complete proteins have all of the necessary amino acids in the correct ratios for the human body to convert into proteins. Complete protein exists in poultry, seafood, milk, cheese, and eggs. Soy protein is one of the rare plant-based complete proteins. On the other hand, incomplete proteins do not have all of the amino acids in the correct ratios for the production of proteins. Most plants do not contain all of the essential complete proteins. Although, combining certain grains and legumes can actually provide someone with all the essential amino acids. Grains are high in methionine, and legumes and beans are high in lysine and tryptophan, meaning these combined can provide adequate protein. Certain cultures incorporate this idea, such as how in Mexico corn and beans are eaten, in U.S. South rice and black-eyed peas are eaten, and in India rice and lentils are eaten. You need all eight amino acids to have a healthy amount of protein in your body. Extra amino acids not needed in your body are excreted as urea in urine. Some scientists say not to consume soy products by infants and pregnant woman, since it contains genistein, which can distress the immune system. Acrylamide is the result of the amino acid asparagine, and glucose, mix when baking/frying temperature surpasses 248 degrees F. Animal studies have revealed that acrylamide can act as a cancer causing carcinogen, although it has not been proven to cause breast, bowel, kidney, or bladder cancer, meaning the levels of acrylamide in food are most likely very low. Acrylamide exists in starchy foods such as potato chips, French fries, cookies, biscuits, processed cereals, and some types of bread.

No difficult terms.

I picked this article mainly because I am a vegetarian, and I always hear from my mom something along the lines of “I really think you are not getting enough protein, trust me I know these things. You are young and think you know everything, but really you don’t understand that…” Now I think I should show her this article and see what she says. Although, I still believe that even though I may be able to get enough protein, I am not sure whether an athlete can. Maybe if they also took vitamins then they could, but I highly doubt they would favor the idea of not eating meat (not to induce any stereotypes of athletes).

The funniest part about the misconception of vegetarianisms, is that so many people say that if you do not eat meat, then you will not get enough protein, and these people do not even know what protein is! It has just been a part of culture for people to think that meat protein is a necessity, but they do not know about the real story behind the food pyramid (how lobbying, dairy and meat farmers were involved). If more people would read articles such as this, then maybe they would be more open to vegetarianisms. Also, a benefit to not eating meat that might make people more open to vegetarianisms is that it is healthier for your body, since meat contains fats that the body does not always need. Another benefit, is being a vegetarian is better for the environment.

Colin Baird. What’s A Complete Protein? Chemistry in Your Life: Second Edition. W.H. Freeman and Company. New York. 2006.

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