Since I have written above about calcium, I have decided to also write briefly about the other most commonly asked about / misunderstood food topic – protein. Calcium and protein are the two things people are most concerned about not getting enough of. The reason for this is simple. The meat and dairy industries promote, respectively, the importance of protein and calcium, through the USDA and other governmental agencies. The truth is, it is easy to get enough protein. Anything you eat is primarily composed of protein, carbohydrate, or fat. There is protein in grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, and seeds, as well as in the more commonly thought of sources of animal protein.
The RDA for daily protein intake for an average adult might be 50 – 70 grams per day. This is determined by age, weight, activity, and gender. It is well known that these numbers are actually 2 to 3 times greater than what is actually needed, but a “safety” margin is built in to ensure that people will get enough protein. Even assuming a person actually needs to consume 70 grams of protein per day, it would be difficult not to do so. If you are reading this article, than you are likely living in middle class America, eating a typical American diet, living a typical American lifestyle, and getting far more protein than you need each day. You only will not get enough protein if you are purposely starving yourself, in which case you have more serious issues to worry about than protein.
It was once believed that non-animal sources of protein are incomplete, making items such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, necessities. This has long ago been disproved. Not only do most foods contain all of the essential amino acids (building blocks of proteins), but the body is also able to utilize stored amino acids when needed. In fact, the body recycles protein well. We do not need to take in a large amount each day. Excess consumption of protein, specifically from animal sources, can be dangerous. It acidifies the blood, places strain on the liver and kidneys, and can contribute to illnesses such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and cancer.
For me, the most pressing issue regarding protein is that people tend to focus on it at the expense of all of the other essential nutrients. People worry about what will happen if you do not eat meat. But what about not eating fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds? It is my experience that many people do not eat much from these food groups. Take away meat and dairy, and most people are lost. Protein deficiency is not the thing to worry about. Deficiency of vitamins, minerals, and other non-nutrient compounds such as enzymes, antioxidants, and flavanoids, is a much more pressing issue.