Ignorance is bliss

So, I’ve been getting the usual questions on a regular basis for several years now and rather than repeat myself over and over again I’m going to start answering them here. I’ll try to address one issue a week, schedule allowing, which will be either one of the most common or most annoying that I encounter. This week, the big one – PROTEIN!
I’ve recently read The China Study (which I highly recommend if you have any questions about the health aspects of a whole foods, plant based diet), which has prompted the occasional discussion with colleagues about vegetarianism. After trying to explain the detrimental health effects of animal protein demonstrated in the book, one of my colleagues stated that “We need to eat animal protein as there are some nutrients you can only get from meat – and I’ve got a biology degree!”. This is worrying on so many levels! Even when I did my GCSEs (UK high school exams) many moons ago (ok – 1993) we were taught that you needed to get all the essential amino acids and that, while they are all present in meat they are also present in soya. Nowadays it’s accepted that you don’t even need to get all of these amino acids at the same time i.e, rather than having to eat soya (or meat!), you can gain them separately from various plant sources throughout the day. However,while it’s clear that we knew nearly 20 YEARS AGO that you didn’t have to eat meat in order to consume a healthy amount of protein,this is still the prevailing opinion, even amongst the “educated”.
Interestingly, at school we were also taught that while saturated (animal) fats were bad for you (which I’ll go into in another post), low fat cuts of meat were a good way to include this protein in your diet. Unfortunately, there is now substantial evidence to support the case against, not just animal fat, but animal protein, which has been shown to contoribute to the development of various diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as osteoporosis, kidney stones and autoimmune diseases such as MS.
Populations following a mainly whole foods, plant based diet tend to have lower rates of all of these diseases (when normalised for age and activity level) than populations that consume a more animal based diet.
So no,while we do need to consume protein, we don’t need to eat animals to do it, and the sooner people are taught that, the better.

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