Where’s the Meat? A Look into the Vegetarian Diet

Animal protein is a foundational component of any paleo-inspired diet including the Dr. Brown Diet. With vegetarianism gaining popularity in some circles, you may be wondering why this is the case. Although a vegetarian diet may provide adequate nutrition and some health benefits when carefully planned, it definitely goes against Dr. Brown’s philosophy of the ideal eating plan. Here are three reasons why we believe animal protein should be an integral part of your daily food intake.

1. Animal proteins are “complete” proteins.

Protein is a complex substance made up of amino acids. The human body needs twenty specific amino acids in order to function properly. These amino acids are the building blocks required for many physiological functions like growing and repairing muscle, oxygenating the blood, and boosting immunity. Eight of these amino acids (9 for children) are considered essential as the body can not make them on its own. Instead, they must be consumed in the diet.

Animal protein contains all nine essential amino acids in amounts great enough for the body to be able to utilize them. On the other hand, plant sources are considered “incomplete” and must be combined carefully in order to achieve the more optimal amino acid profile.

2. Animal protein is highly digestible and usable by the body.

In order for the body to be able to use the protein we consume, it needs all eight (nine) essential amino acids in the right amounts at the same time. Protein is not like fat. It can not be stored for later. Amino acids eaten on one day can not be stored to combine with another amino acid later in the week. If a meal lacks even one of the essential amino acids, it hinders the body’s effective use of all the others.

Animal protein is more “usable” by the body than plant protein. This means that the body can absorb and utilize a higher percentage of the proteins that comes from animals than the proteins that come from vegetables. Eating animal protein will not only ensure we are getting all nine essential amino acids, but it will ensure we are getting them in the correct ratio so that they can be used optimally by the body.

3. Animal protein sources are better at carrying cholesterol through the blood.

In this day and age of convenience food, people often consume high levels of unhealthy fat. And even if you are eating paleo, you will likely eat a lot of {healthy} fat. In order to maintain optimal levels of cholesterol, it is important that enough protein is consumed on a daily basis. Cholesterol is carried through the blood by lipoproteins including apoproteins which require all eight essential amino acids to form properly.  As discussed above, only protein from animal sources contain these ideal essential amino acid profiles on their own.1

Among other things …

Aside from excluding animal protein, vegetarianism can be problematic in other ways as well. Staple foods in a vegetarian diet often include grains, beans, and tofu. While these foods are commonly believed to be “healthy,” Dr. Brown would argue that they are actually not. As discussed in our recent posts 7 Habits for Optimal Digestion and Food Pairing: Even Your Meals Need Organizing, these foods are difficult to digest.  Many times they also contain undesirable ingredients such as sugar, preservatives, GMO’s, and the like. Consuming foods that irritate the digestive tract and with these harmful ingredients can lead to inflammation in the body. And inflammation is often the precursor to many chronic conditions and diseases.

Source matters

Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you to eat animal protein daily, I must remind you to choose wisely! Look for “organic, grass-fed meat,” “organic, pasture-raised poultry and eggs,” “wild-caught fish,” and “pasture butter or ghee.” Eating animal products without these labels creates other issues for the body to deal with, and many of the benefits above are then outweighed by the negatives. For more information regarding these phrases, refer back to Phrases to Look for When Shopping Paleo.

Hope this is helpful for anyone on the fence on which philosophy to subscribe to! Feel free to leave any questions or comments below.

In health,

Kristen Barkley
Kristen Barkley
Kristen is a happily married mom to four beautiful and active children and is the co-founder of Marpé Wellness. She has a BBA in Marketing from the University of Houston and completed extensive coursework in the areas of nutrition and fitness. She is excited to be putting her education to use in an industry that she is passionate about where she can help others live a healthier and happier life.

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