There are three macronutrients in food: carbohydrates, fat and protein, ‘macro’ in the sense that they comprise almost all of the weight and calories of food. Vitamins and minerals are the micronutrients.
Protein, ever since its discovery in 1839, has been considered by many people to be an exceptionally important nutrient, often assuming that the more we consume the better. Its name comes from the Greek word, proteios, meaning ‘of prime importance’—an auspicious and almost mystical beginning for the future of this nutrient! Add to this importance the long standing impression by most people that protein is exclusive to animal source foods.
We now know, however, that this importance is exaggerated, to mythical proportions. For a starter, protein is not exclusive to animal-based foods. In the late 1800s protein was also found to be present in plant foods. Yet the myth of its being tightly or even exclusively linked to animal-based foods still lingers. Simply ask a non-meat eating vegan how many times they are asked, “But where do I get my protein?”
This bias implying that meat is the sole source of protein was encouraged over these many decades by ‘science’. Research findings, for example, were showing that animal-based proteins are utilized by the body more efficiently. This efficiency of utilization referred to increased body growth rate among other effects, with greater efficiency being described as greater ‘biological value’ or higher quality. But it was only animal-based proteins that have high quality.
Because most people obviously like high quality, animal-based protein became the protein of choice. In effect, this history evolved through the prism of linguistics to [...]