Contributing Monkie Brendan Brazier
Published on January 18, 2008
Want to segue to a plant-based diet but concerned about getting adequate protein? Worry no more: properly balanced plant protein can offer several advantages over more traditional animal-based options.
It was once thought that only animal protein was complete and therefore a superior source to plant-based options. Complete protein is comprised of all ten essential amino acids. By definition, essential amino acids cannot be made by the body; they must be obtained through dietary sources. And, in fact, there are actually several complete plant protein sources. However, to obtain all amino acids in high quantities, it’s advantageous to consume several complementary sources of protein on a regular basis. For example, hemp, yellow pea and brown rice protein make up a superior amino acid profile that rivals any created in the animal kingdom.
Additionally, one of the big advantages of properly balanced whole food (plant-based protein over animal protein) is its slightly neutral pH. In contrast, highly processed foods are acid forming, as are animal based foods. Whey protein isolate, for example, is highly acid forming. Whey straight from the cow would be neutral and even slightly alkaline, but once the protein is isolated (no longer rendering it a whole food), it is then pasteurized. These two steps of processing lower its pH, making it more acid-forming. Meat — pork in particular — is also highly acid forming.
It’s advantageous to maintain a neutral pH. Eating too many acid-forming foods will promote inflammation, reduce immune function and cause calcium to be pulled from the bones in order to keep the blood in its neutral state of 7.35. This, of course, leads to lower bone density and, in many cases, osteoporosis.
The most alkaline forming foods are those with chlorophyll, the green pigment in many plants. Leafy greens for example. Hemp is an excellent example in that is contains complete protein, yet the fact that it is not isolated and that it contains chlorophyll helps maintain a more alkaline pH.
So, there you are: you can have your plant-based protein and eat it, too.