We all know we need protein. It goes into strong muscles, bone, ligaments, healthy skin, hair, nails, vital enzymes, and even some hormones. Protein goes into every single cell in the body, making them strong, guiding what they absorb and how nutrients get shuttled across membranes. We sometimes forget that we are a mesh of individual cells that work independently from one another so the whole can survive. Each cell uses protein to feel out the world and make decisions on what to do with what they discover. It is up to the conscious and sentient whole to give these individual cells what they need. Do we do it? That is another thing entirely.
When we talk about protein, most of the world immediately thinks about meat. Meat is considered a complete protein, so it’s always been given more weight by many doctors and nutritionists. Plant-based protein sources tend to be lacking in one or two essential amino acids. We don’t store protein like we do fat, so we must get protein each day from food and we require all the essential amino acids in order to create the dazzling array of enzymes, muscles, and connective tissues found in the body. This led to a trend of vegans and vegetarians carefully combining different protein sources at each meal. This trend turns out to be erroneous since digested amino acids remain in the body for days before being removed.
Good news for vegans and vegetarians, eating different protein sources throughout the week provides all the essential amino acids we need in all the right combinations. We should have known really that the body is much more resilient and capable than we gave it credit. You don’t have to combine proteins in exact ways each meal or risk being deficient. But different sources, of course, are still key to getting that balanced array of essential amino acids. We just don’t have to be as vigilant as we once thought. The surprise to many of you may be that different sources are important for other reasons, even for those who eat meat.
There are plenty of naturally occurring compounds out there that do us damage. Arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, and many more. Plants also produce plenty of toxic compounds to protect themselves from pests or to inhibit digestion of seeds. Pollution, modern processing, plastics, preservatives, fertilizers, and pesticides add to the mix. This results in a cornucopia of toxins floating around the world. They are in the air, the water, and the soil. We breathe them in, drink them, and eat them. So do all the other animals of the world.
Now, let’s look at what animals do with toxins. The body does a decent job of recognizing toxins and getting them out of the system. There are exceptions. Some toxins mimic hormones and confuse the body. Some toxins, like many venoms, are too potent to get rid of before they poison, destroy tissue, and even kill. Most toxins get identified and shuttled to the liver and kidneys to be removed, but when there are too many for the liver and kidneys to deal with, our ingenious bodies wrap them in fat to keep them from doing damage. We then stuff this fat into cells to keep anything toxic away from essential organs and functions. Really this process is very smart, but it presents several problems. Not only do we gain weight from unneeded fat storage, we accumulate toxins in our bodies rather than getting rid of them.
This means that the more often we eat one particular protein source, the more likely we are to get more and more of one specific toxin build up in our system, which can reach dangerous levels. This goes for meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans, and anyone in between. Animals higher up on the food chain, like ourselves, concentrate nutrients. That’s why cows that eat mainly grass or grain have complete protein in their muscle tissues even though the grains and grass they eat are considered incomplete. They also concentrate toxins, especially if they rely on one major food source. So whether you rely on pea, rice, chia, whey, chicken, beef, or fish for your protein needs, you should be mixing things up to avoid one particular toxin building up in your system. We all know eating a lot of fish can result in mercury poisoning, but it goes for other protein sources too, meat or plants. If you spread it out, your body can catch up and get rid of them more easily.
That’s why you see many blends hitting the market when it comes to vegan protein powders. We’re beginning to learn from what we see in nature and how our ancient ancestors ate. Combining proteins may not be necessary with every meal, but is still a good way to balance out the amino acid profile, provide all we need, and avoid the dangerous accumulation of toxins. These protein powders also make a simple, easy, and readily digested way to add a dash of extra protein to your life without worry. Look for the blends, fusions, mixes, and combinations when you choose your protein sources, no matter your lifestyle. Some ingredients to look for in blends include pea, rice, amaranth, chia, cranberry, hemp seed, and quinoa. These are some of the cleanest and healthiest sources you can find, especially as balanced mixtures.