From the Studio of Dr. Toni Harrison, MD – Animal Protein vs Plant Protein

I’ve had some questions about the film – if you have not seen this movie, it is passionate about promoting a vegetarian lifestyle or a vegan lifestyle. I call it a film instead of a documentary, because they didn’t do a very good job of fact checking the science or presenting the opposing view. There is good information in this film, but I wouldn’t really consider it a “scientific” source because there is potential harm to be done by pursuing a vegan lifestyle, for example it is absolutely dangerous for the pediatric population. There’s just absolutely no way that a child can develop and have appropriate brain development on a vegan lifestyle. For an adult it’s possible but you have to be very sophisticated and purposeful in how you design your intake. And for the vast majority of people that’s just not possible in our normal everyday life.

Regardless of whatever diet approach you want to take, whether that’s the Dash Diet or Ornish or Mediterranean, paleo, whatever you want to choose; I think the foundation is the same regardless. Protein should come from a small amount of meat, heavy emphasis on vegetables and making sure that you get good healthy fats. That’s the foundation for every nutritional plan that I would promote. One of the ideas in the movie is that plant protein and animal protein are exactly the same, and that a human body can acquire all the amino acids that they need from plant sources. This is actually not true. Animal protein and plant protein are not the same.

Amino acids are the smallest building block of proteins. There are nine essential amino acids. Histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. These are amino acids that the human body cannot make on its own, and that need to come from your food. You can kind of think of it like letters being used to build words. If you’re playing Scrabble, and you’re given a bunch of consonants, but you’re not given any vowels or very few vowels, it’s going to be hard to make words, or the types of words that you want. You’re going to struggle. Plant proteins have a different quantity and variety of amino acids than what an animal or human needs to make the proteins needed. In order to get enough, you have to eat an amazing amount of plants and the caloric intake would be way too high and you’re talking about eating pounds and pound of vegetables. And it’s just not practical in a normal life. There are different types of protein products on the market. Pea protein and rice protein have different amino acid compositions, so you’ll find some products that blend the two together. The rice and pea proteins tend to be very bioavailable, meaning that they’re easily absorbed into your system. That can be a good approach to take. The nice thing about pea and rice protein is that they tend to have fewer allergic components to them. For people who have issues with dairy, that might be a way to go, although a Whey or Casein protein should not have any lactose in it. People that are lactose intolerant should still be able to take Whey or Casein protein. If one truly wants to be a Vegan or vegetarian, they may want to search out for an “EAA” supplement, (essential amino acid) supplement.

Now, gelatin and collagen are very similar. The thing that’s different about collagen, and I’m just going to say collagen for simplicity – the thing that is different is that the amino acids that are used to build collagen are different than the amino acids that are used to build muscle. And usually when we’re eating protein, we’re eating a muscle like a steak and we tend not to eat a lot of collagen. Our ancestors would eat the skin, the bones, the cartilage, they would gnaw on bones. A lot of times you’ll see dogs that will gnaw on bones, well, that’s what humans used to do when they were in our ancestral times. And we don’t eat cartilage like they used to. So that means that the steak that we’re eating doesn’t have enough amino acids to make the collagen, which we need. In the human body, we use collagen to make joints, tendons, cartilage, skin, nails, hair.  Lots of people have heard about using collagen to help with like the fine wrinkles in their skin, or to help repair a tissue. You need collagen if you’re going to heal a wound, or heal from surgery. You also need vitamin C to make collagen, so keep that in the back of your mind.

Also, collagen and gelatin have a lot of glycine which can help heal the gut lining also so the best thing to do is probably to get a mixture of protein. Because they’ve got different compositions, so they heal different types of tissue. In Designs for Health, MycoPure would be the protein mix that I would recommend. It is plant-based from pea and rice. It also has Shiitake mushrooms in it, which can help with your immune system and it has all nine essential amino acids. It’s high in the branch chain amino acids. It’s highly digestible, so you get good absorption of the protein. It comes in two flavors. It comes in a chocolate, and then it also has what they call golden milk. Now golden milk, if you’re not familiar with it, is typically a mixture of almond milk with turmeric, cinnamon, ginger in it. Turmeric can really help with inflammation, so if you’re somebody that has inflammation from a heavy workout, then this might be the type of a protein mix that you really want to use for your muscle growth. For collagen, they have Whole Body Collagen and you take a scoop of that a day. I believe that it does not have a flavor, so you can add that to anything. If you have an elderly person in your family or somebody that you love about, you definitely want to make sure that they’re getting a collagen and MycoPure.

The elderly have a really hard time getting enough protein, and the lack of muscle mass that results is called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is a leading cause of disability and disease in our system. Your whole metabolism is tied to how much muscle mass you have and your muscle mass determines how strong your bones are. You also need collagen to have healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis. The majority of your bone is actually protein. We always think about calcium to harden our bones, but the majority of your bone is actually protein.

I hope that helps in understanding amino acids, collagen, protein and muscle growth. Do something today that helps you be healthier tomorrow!

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