Protein For Vegetarians & The 'Beans and Rice' Myth
By Alan Graham
with Alfred Lehmberg
Before I make some "Veggie-Protein" recommendations let me illustrate a common Protein misconception.
If you have ever traveled through rural Mexico or Central & South America and observed the poorer indigenous Indians/Latinos -or just watched these folks going in & out of your local Walmart- constructively do a little "racial-profiling." Look for leathery skinned (works in the sun), Hispanic-looking, and Spanish speaking people. These are persons you would identify as migrant workers from Mexico, if forced to guess. We have many of these hard-working folks here in lower Alabama who shop where I shop "...where Americashops," reader... at Wally-World.
Everybody comfortable? See, all these persons have one obvious defining characteristic... virtually none of the males are over about 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and the women are even tinier! This is notably, if among other factors I'm sure, a result of a protein poor diet consumed: a diet composed chiefly of "Beans & Rice" (B&R). If just Beans, mind, then the value of the protein drops off even more dramatically!
This is because -and yeah, I'm gonna get mail- if you wanted to get technical, most beans do not contain protein... they contain a "protein-like" group of Amino-Acids (AA's) that everyone euphemistically calls an "incomplete-protein" because it is missing or extremely low in at least one of the Essential Amino-Acids making it a viable completeprotein. That's the long and short!
Most beans don't quite measure up.
This is where we must then contrive a necessary "food-combining" dietary measure where the beans (missing one AA) are mixed with rice (which is missing a different AA), resulting in a "complete-protein" because of the overlap of the 2 incomplete protein profiles.
But wait! Though "complete", they remain, even together, a "weak" form of protein, still, because even though the 2 missing AA's are now "covered," they are both very low compared to other Amino-Acid profiles! Unfortunately, the low AAs dictate the effectiveness of the rest of the AAs. This is analogous to a chain's weakest link or "creating a bottle-neck" for protein synthesis... follow?
Now this same bottle-neck appears with other veggie proteins, even if they are "complete" because they are likely to be weak in Methionine, in particular.
Let me point something out that is key to this discussion. A protein may be "complete"... and still be a bad source of protein.
For example, Soy protein -Soy Isolate in particular- is an unsafe food never intended as food for humans by Mother-Nature, an intelligent designer, or a loving God!
Soy protein Isolate has all the necessary AA's but is low in a couple of them, especially Methionine - so the protein is just barely "complete." This is also why many Soy Powder formulas are "Fortified" with supplemental Methionine... but even that won't help much because of other Soy shortfalls listed below. Soy Isolate, understand, is a bad form of Protein... in my considered opinion.
See, this "Fractionated" Soy Protein Isolate, found in protein powders & cleverly hidden in a thousand other products, is a highly denatured, highly processed "fake" food that is unhealthful due to the following:
1) Fractionated - Essentially broken into "pieces-parts"...not found in nature in this form, unlike Soy Tofu which is a "Whole Food" - soTofu (Soy Bean-curd) is not as harmful because it is not fractionated.
Everyone incorrectly thinks Tofu is fermented... well, actually there are several forms of fermented Tofu but it is used for other things like condiments, etc., and is NOT the white bean curd you get at the typical grocery store. That white rubbery stuff is "precipitated"... not fermented. The precipitation is done with different minerals like calcium & magnesium... so there's NO fermentation going on.
2) Phytates & Oxalates - These bind to minerals like Calcium & Zinc. Many veggies & grains contain varying degrees of P & O but Soy is the highest... followed closely by grains. And yes, even spinach... Sorry Popeye, but 95% of the Calcium in spinach is bound to Oxalates, thus unusable.
...Oh yeah, then the Calcium-Oxalate that's formed? It's available for kidney-stones & heel-spurs!
3) Trypsin inhibitors - they block the absorption of protein by inhibiting the enzyme Trypsin. These inhibitors are very high in raw Soy so this is why virtually all these soy products have to be cooked "to death" (leaving the protein highly Denatured) and why Soy Oil must be refined. Unfortunately cooking doesn't destroy all the Inhibitor which can lead to an enlarged pancreas & cancer!
4) Phyto-estrogen - Folks, 90% (that's a guess) of the population doesn't need more estrogen, estrogen-mimics, or Xeno-Estrogens in their lives. This is, of course, unless you like Eric Cartman man-boobs (moobs) on your big-boned, "But hey... not fat," male off-spring... then double down on the stuff, eh?
Gluten from wheat, barley & rye - Gluten is the most difficult form of protein to digest & can lead to an autoimmune response like joint pain if you don't have enough stomach-acid to properly "soften" it up... & most old people have too little stomach-acid - not too much. (95% or more wheat gluten is made in China and cannot be trusted to be clean of toxins in light of the outrageous recent scandal. Wheat gluten should be completely avoided. -ed)
FYI : Oats in its natural form has gluten but it can best be described as an "in-between" form of gluten that many people don't have a problem with unless they have Celiac Disease & must avoid ALL forms of gluten. Many people have varying degrees of Celiac Disease & don't know it. They think their bowel-distress is just the way life shakes out & that everyone has gas, bloating & occasional diarrhea... uh, NOT ME.
Protein for Vegetarians:
Ref. Amino-Acid Profile Score - anything over 100 is a "Complete Protein"; however, there are many examples where a lower scored protein will be superior due to digestibility & other factors.
Consider, Soy has a fairly high AAPS of 108 but is bad for other reasons, as per the above remember.
Gluten protein from wheat, etc. is particularly weak with a score of 55 & bread has a very incomplete 35 AAPS.
FYI : the "gold Standard" for protein is the egg with an AAPS of 145.
For those Vegetarians wanting to avoid all animal protein, I recommend the following forms of protein... pretty much in descending order :
1. Hemp Powdered Protein - High AAPS, and unlike Soy, it is very digestible. It has no gluten & has a perfect Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio. Also, part of that Omega-6 is the highly sought after fatty acid, GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid). GLA fights inflammation & Platelet-stickiness... also, women take it for PMS. Hemp cures the blues.
2. Split Pea or Yellow Pea - Has a score of 102...so it is complete but low in methionine. Yellow Pea powdered protein (might be fortified w. Methionine) is very digestible & No major shortfalls...unlike Soy & grains.
3. If you are going to rely on "Beans & Rice" for protein please use Black Beans with an AAPS of 103, instead of Pinto Beans & Kidney Beans with a lower score, down around 90. Green beans contain some great nutrients <BUT> they are off the chart low on protein.
(a) Pumpkin & Squash seeds have an extraordinarily high score of 136 (the same as chicken). For comparison, chicken is 37% protein - where the seeds are 22%.
(b) Chia Seeds are also very high at 115 (but only 11% protein)... flaxseed has a lower score of 92 but it has the highest % of Plant-Derived Omega-3 ALA...6 times more than Chia Seeds.
(a) Pistachios at 110 (and 13% protein) is one of the only commercially viable nuts that is complete...Cashews are right on the line at 100 but you cannot find Cashews in the grocery store that are not "OIL-roasted"...never, never buy any oil-roasted nuts - only raw or dry-roasted nuts are acceptable.
The oil is either rancid or hydrogenated (TransFat) and is usually Cottonseed Oil, which is likely the worst oil that was never meant for human consumption.
(b) Almonds & Walnuts (usually come dry-roasted) are protein poor at 55 but walnuts have a tremendous amount of Omega-3... however it is likely rancid if you buy grocery store Walnuts. The only way I feel you might get non-rancid Omega-3 is to order Vacuum-sealed, walnuts right from the California farmer & then freeze them.
So, sliding into the barn sideways, where are we? Human beings require quality protein. Moreover, they require a complete quality protein which vegetarians, in particular, must take pains to locate in different foods for optimum health. Soy Isolate, a fractionated and denatured faux-food, is of course a poor protein source.
All this said, protein nutrition could be approached a little more knowledgably by the consumer given the producer seems so willing to make the consumer pay -and so egregiously remembering the Soy Lie- for her well facilitated lack of that knowledge! It's buyer beware, eh?