The surprising benefits of plant proteins
Yet what made the China Study particularly remarkable was what it revealed about plant-based proteins. The scientists found that by removing animal protein from the equation and replacing it with plant-based protein, they created the opposite effect of the aforementioned points. In fact, not only did the plant proteins prevent degenerative disease, they also, in many cases, reversed it, even in instances where there was a genetic predisposition factor involved.
What it really comes down to is that eating animals is a significantly different nutritional experience from eating plants. On top of the aforementioned, plant-based foods have substantially more antioxidants, fiber and minerals than animal-based foods and significantly less cholesterol and saturated fat. Plant-based foods also tend to be alkaline forming, which can help your body combat inflammation, reduce stress and protect bone health.
The pressing importance of nutrition
While eating tons of animal-based proteins is not the sole reason people develop chronic health issues, it is a major factor, especially right here in the United States. At 200 pounds of meat per person per year, the average consumption of meat in America is higher than anywhere else in the world. And it’s hurting our national health. We spend more on our health care than any other country, yet Americans have twice the obesity rate, twice the diabetes rate, and nearly three times the cancer rate as the rest of the world.
This is why the need for change is as urgent as ever. Granted, many will be reluctant to go against popular opinion, which values animal-based proteins as the purest and highest-quality proteins, but the science and statistics should be reason enough to doubt the status quo. Nutrition undoubtedly has a very strong effect on our health and arguably, our likelihood of developing chronic disease. And the China Study, as comprehensive in its design as it was in its findings, delivered a very clear message — that we can maximize our health and well-being simply by choosing to eat the right foods.
So start small. Take steps in the right direction. Because the choices you make when it comes to what’s on your plate may be the choices that save your health.
Complete Protein Sources
Complete proteins are those that contain all essential amino acids in sufficient quantity – these are typically animal-based proteins, but a few plant sources are also considered complete. A few examples are (* indicates plant-based):
- Dairy products (milk, yogurt, whey)
- Hemp and chia seed*
Incomplete Protein Sources
Incomplete proteins are those that don’t contain all 9 essential amino acids, or don’t in sufficient quantity to meet the body’s needs, and must be supplemented with other proteins. These include:
- Nuts & seeds
Just because they are incomplete doesn’t make them inferior, though, they just need to be combined to provide the right balance of essential aminos. Proteins that, in combination, make a complete amino acid profile are known as complementary proteins. Here are a few tasty examples:
- Rice and beans
- Spinach salad with almonds
- Hummus and whole-grain pitas
- Whole-grain noodles with peanut sauce
Complementary proteins don’t necessarily need to be eaten together, but since your body doesn’t store amino acids for later use in protein combining, they should be eaten throughout a day’s meals.