Protein Combining?

Just wanted to quickly address yet another ongoing protein myth that I STILL hear concerns about from time to time.

Don’t we have to combine certain plant-based foods to get our complete protein?

Since many plant-based foods don’t contain all of the nine essential amino acids, it had long been thought that vegetarians had to strategically combine certain foods every meal so they could synergize into “complete” or “Class A” proteins like animal products. But the genesis of this theory was launched way back in 1913 from the infamous Mendel and Osborne report which showed that rats grew better on animal protein.  Never mind that rats have a completely different physiology than humans and that, to reach full growth at five months, rat milk has eleven times the protein that human milk does.  Instead, animal protein was viewed as the superior choice, while plant-based protein had “Class B” status.

This philosophy was even perpetuated in the vegetarian community back in ’71 through the best-selling work, Diet For A Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe, who suggested various combinations of plant-based foods that would resemble the amino acid ratios found in animal proteins. However, a number of tests and studies surfaced in the seventies to reveal that the body operates an amino acid pool that collects all proteins and configures them as it needs to. (Even Lappe herself stepped forth in a revised version of the book a few years later and made the correction.)

And while this idea of combining certain plant-based foods does maximize the body’s absorption of the protein (and this will often happen naturally in the course of your various “Rock-Solid” meals I recommend), it is in no way imperative that all nine essential aminos be represented in a given meal. Nonetheless, some of the primary Rock-Solid vegan protein sources we cover around here, like spirulina (the ultimate protein source on the planet) and the many available soy-based foods, happen to have all of the essential amino acids present.

Bottom line?  Get enough calories from a variety of whole food sources like beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, a little soy here and there, nuts, seeds, vegetables and even fruit, and it will be virtually impossible not to get all the protein you need.

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About Bobby Rock

Bobby Rock is a world renown drummer, the author of seven books, and a recognized health and fitness specialist with certifications in exercise, nutrition and meditation. He has recorded and toured with a variety of artists, released three CDs as a solo performer and is recognized as a top drumming educator. (He is currently touring with rock icon, Lita Ford.) Through speaking, writing and activism, Bobby remains committed to a number of animal and environmental causes. Bobby lives in Los Angeles.
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3 Responses to Protein Combining?

  1. Christine says:

    Being a vegan on a busy schedule I feel like I am flying by the seat of my pants most of the time with my meals. I just “cross my fingers” that I am getting the balance that I need in my diet. Your post was reassuring that I am on the right track. What is your view on vitamin and mineral supplementation?

    Hope your training is progressing as it should 🙂

  2. thanks rock for the straight up details as always!

  3. Trevor says:

    Speaking of myths/misinformation, I received an email the other day pointing out that drinking water at the correct time maximizes its effectiveness:

    “2 glasses of water after waking up helps activate internal organs

    1 glass of water 30 minutes before a meal – helps digestion

    1 glass of water before taking a bath/shower – helps lower blood pressure

    1 glass of water before going to bed – avoids stroke or heart attack”

    I believe it’s been doing the rounds for quite some time. Not sure if there’s any truth to any of these claims, but if not, why would someone want to start the myth (if that’s what it is) in the first place?

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