Our culture has led many of us to believe that getting enough protein is of paramount importance. The real issue, however, isn’t that we aren’t getting enough; it’s the source of protein we should be concerned about.
All proteins consist of amino acids, and the exact proportions of their amino acids may determine how beneficial different proteins are for our health.
Why that’s so has been a question of much debate. It’s even led to an assumption that plant-based proteins are inferior to animal-based ones. I’ll address that assumption in a future post, but today’s focus is on what the Harvard Nutrition website calls “protein packages.”
“Protein packages” refer to “everything that comes alongside” the protein in our food. Think:
The Harvard site claims:
“Available evidence indicates that it’s the source of protein (or, the protein “package”), rather than the amount of protein, that likely makes a difference for our health.”
Dr. Walter Willet, the former chair of Harvard’s Nutrition Department writes, “However, protein is not consumed in isolation. Instead, it is packaged with a host of other nutrients. The quality and amounts of fats, carbohydrates, sodium, and other nutrients in the ‘protein package’ may influence long-term health.”
What source of protein does Harvard’s website currently suggest? Their answer is in the very first tip at the end of the article:
“Get your protein from plants when possible.”
We need to start turning our culture’s conversation from how much protein we’re getting to where we should get it from. And you know where I stand on the issue.
If I had to choose between a plant protein package with:
– healthy fat
and phytonutrients, or an animal protein package with:
– saturated fat
and bio-accumulated heavy metals, my choice would be a no-brainer. Get all protein from plants!