If we chose a phrase virtually all vegetarians have heard, it would be “Be careful! You won’t get enough protein to meet your body’s needs”!
Although very common, this question expresses how the population generally needs to be made aware of the necessary amount of this nutrient to guarantee our health.
Therefore, in this article, we decided to demystify this topic. As we have already done with carbohydrates, we will talk about the importance of this nutrient, foods with a high concentration of proteins, and the consequences of both lack and excess consumption.
Interested in knowing more about it? So, read on!
What Are Proteins?
Protein is considered a macronutrient, a nutrient of fundamental importance for the functioning of the body. Generally, people learn their function is to form the body’s structural tissues.
This means that protein is the main raw material that the body uses to form bones, muscles, skin, hair, and other organs. However, this macronutrient also has other functions. Among them, we highlight the composition of enzymes, hormones, and antibodies.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Animal Protein
The only real advantage of animal meat is that, with a single food, a person can consume all 8 essential amino acids. Some claim that it promotes growth, but this characteristic is not a benefit, as we will see later.
When we compare the advantage of consuming animal protein with the risks it entails, we realize that the cost-benefit ratio of this choice is not at all favorable to health. Understand why!
Food Of Animal Origin Exceeds Our Need For Protein
The ideal protein intake is equivalent to 10% of our energy expenditure. Therefore, a person consuming 1500 calories daily should get 150 calories from protein. Although this need varies from person to person, 50 g daily is enough for most of us.
With the consumption of meat and other foods of animal origin, this limit is easily exceeded. Just a 100-gram steak offers 30 g of protein.
Therefore, if we analyze that a person easily eats that amount (or even more) at lunch, we realize that our daily protein intake exceeds double or triple this recommendation.
This risk increases even more when people opt for a low-carb diet. Due to a lack of information, it is not uncommon for them to compensate for carbohydrate withdrawal by ingesting more protein.
Excess Protein Is Just As (or more) Harmful Than Its Lack
And what happens to the protein we consume in excess? Our body cannot metabolize it, using it properly to build tissue. Instead, the excess causes a lot of damage to the body.
One of the main negative effects of excess protein is related to an “advantage” that we already mentioned: they promote cell growth.
Contrary to what people imagine, this is not a benefit. Studies carried out in the laboratory and with human beings have shown that this incentive to growth also works with tumors.
The conclusion was this: enzyme activity decreases when people consume only the protein necessary for their survival. Thus, when the person has cancer in the formation stage, these altered cells receive fewer carcinogens.
The result is that these cancer cells cannot multiply quickly, i.e., they grow slowly. Therefore, those who do not consume excess protein are less likely to develop cancer.
In the second stage of cancer formation, research also shows surprising results. For cancer precursor cells (pre-tumors) to develop, they need protein.
However, the organism was designed to function wisely. Therefore, the body first uses the ingested proteins to meet our needs. Only the excess is free to be used for growing tumors.
Therefore, consuming only the necessary protein, without excesses, is one of the most efficient ways to prevent cancer development. On the other hand, exaggerating the amount of protein also feeds pre-tumors, favoring their growth.
Animal Protein Triggers Cancer More Easily Than Vegetable Protein
As we have already said, different types of proteins are formed by different combinations of amino acids. We have also shown that excess protein favors the development of cancer.
However, the protein used in the studies above was casein, of animal origin.
When researchers studied people who used animal proteins, the result was completely different. Even when the daily protein intake from wheat and soy exceeded the recommendation, there was no increase in pre-tumors and cancer.
Excess Animal Protein Is Also Associated With Other Diseases
The excess of proteins of animal origin that characterizes the Western menu also brings many other health risks. Its consumption is associated with an increase in cases of several diseases:
- heart problems;
- stone formation;
- low immunity;
- increase in bad cholesterol (LDL);
- autoimmune diseases;
- digestive disorders;
- degenerative diseases.
Animal Protein Alternatives
If animal protein carries so many risks, why do people insist on using it? In part, the high consumption is caused by the alleged practicality. After all, throw a steak in the pan to get those essential amino acids.
In addition, there are very strong cultural factors. From a young age, people get used to eating meat. Therefore, the palate gets used to the taste, and they miss that food.
However, we must recognize that many people are willing to change their habits to achieve health. Even among these, adopting a vegetarian diet does not happen because they believe in a myth: that plant proteins are incomplete or inferior.
Studies show that this belief is unfounded. Animal protein’s ranking as superior was based primarily on a study done on rats. The laboratory found that they grew much more when they consumed this type of food.
Indeed, it is a fact that animal protein promotes greater growth. However, this does not mean that this “advantage” represents a gain in health. As we have already mentioned, the same substances that promote cell growth accelerate the development of tumors.