My 18-year-old sister is a vegan vixen, and also a rabid researcher of all things healthful.
Today, as I was doing laundry at my mom's house due to a broken washer, my sister Rachel and I cracked open an organic watermelon, and got into a discussion about protein.
Protein is perhaps the most controversial nutrient on the planet. What types of protein are there? What kind is best for you? Does your body need as much as you think? Are vegetarians screwed?
First of all, get away from the idea of "complete protein" (a protein that contains all of the essential amino acids) and "protein combining" (eating foods with complimentary amino acids in the same meal, so they form a complete protein as they go down). Those are now outdated notions, according to many experts.
Instead, a report by the American Dietic Association recommends ingesting a variety of plant-based foods throughout the day, because virtually all of them contain amino acids, which your body collects throughout the day to make complete proteins on its own.
In other words, you should be more concerned with getting enough amino acids, not protein, because you want to let your body make the kind of protein that it will most easily digest. That's why you might be slamming protein shakes all day yet not feel full; your body might not process it as easily. The same can be said for cooked meats and pasteurized dairy, which contain denatured proteins: Protein whose structure has been altered, yet still contains its amino acids. Real quick, let me tell you the two schools of thought on denatured protein.
-Bodybuilders say that because the outer bonds are "broken down," your body absorbs denatured protein faster, rather than having to wait for the stomach to break it up.
-Raw enthusiasts say that because the structure of the protein has changed - mutated, even - that your body won't recognize it, and excretes it as waste. They add that your body actually NEEDS to have its enzymes break up the nutrient, in order to release that nutrient's energy into the body.
Few nutrition experts disagree when it comes to amino acids, which digest easily - eager to do-si-do with one another to form body-approved proteins.
So, in addition to eating a plant-based diet (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, etc.), you can get a bonus batch of amino acids from the following sources (courtesy of my sister, Rachel). You'll notice all of these sources contain active enzymes in their raw forms (PS, all enzymes are protein, but not all protein are enzymes). And because enzymes are what break down your food, releasing energy and nutrients into the body, the fact that these foods come with their own is like a warranty saying their nutrients WILL be digested and put to use in the body.
This article states that avocados contain all of the essential amino acids (plus nine more), which allows your body to form more protein than from cow's milk.
Not only is this stuff awesome because it's scientifically classified as both plant and animal, but it also contains all of the essential acids, PLUS an extra boost of arginine, known to build muscle tone. (My sis recommends this kind, because it's grown at Klamath Lake in Oregon, which, considering the mineral rich, volcanic soil and alkaline lake, is an ideal environment for healthy algae.)
This is a kind of blue-green algae, which, according to this article, is made up of 60-percent amino acids. Plus, it has a freaky track record of clearing up infections, cancer and other ailments.
Hope this made sense to everybody. Feel free to leave your two cents (even arguments!) in the comments. I'd like to get this whole protein debate cleared up ASAP!