Know what is in your food: How to identify real protein

The vast majority of what we know about the food we eat comes from ideas we have been raised with both in our homes and in our culture. One of the most pervasive dietary beliefs is that we need large amounts of protein to survive. While our bodies are made of of thousands of different proteins, and many of them need to be built by nutrients in our food, the belief that we need to “eat protein” is misguided. Our bodies are not capable of just taking the protein we eat and using it directly as protein in our bodies. 

We need to eat the building blocks of our proteins in order to make the proteins out bodies need. Our body uses a total of 22 different Amino Acids to produce over 50,000 different kinds of proteins. Did you know you needed 50,000 different kinds of proteins? Try getting that in your McDonalds burger.  Out of those 22 amino acids, only 8 of them have to come directly from our food. 

It is true that we can get most of these proteins from animal products, but it is not true that that is the only place to get them; and contrary to popular belief, animal products are not the easiest place to get all of the needed amino acids. For one thing, animal protein is much harder for the body to break down than other sources of amino acids. Vegetables on the whole do not contain as many of the necessary amino acids, but they are much easier to break down for use in the creation of human proteins. 

Another myth is that we need to eat “complete proteins”. The body does not need all of the necessary amino acids all at once. It stores amino acids until it collects enough to make the right proteins. As long as you manage to get all of the necessary amino acids over the course of a day, you should be just fine. 

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