A common concern about being heavy into a vegetable and fruit diet is that complete proteins aren’t available in vegetables and fruits to meet the needs of the body. Anyone who has an interest in nutrition is probably aware of the advice by nutritionists and others that we need to get the full complement of essential amino acids in order for the body to rebuild and replenish itself. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein: We need protein to grow, replace cells, and repair wounds. I don’t dispute that we need nutrient-laden foods; however, I believe the public has been grossly misled into believing that meat is the only food that, in itself, provides all of the amino acids of complete protein.
There are two general categories of amino acids for diet-planning purposes: essential and nonessential. Nonessential amino acids aren’t frivolous amino acids that are just fun things to have in the body. Nonessential amino acids are ever-available—it’s not essential that you eat them, because your body produces them. Essential amino acids, on the other hand, are not produced by your body. Consequently, we are told it is essential that we eat particular foods to make sure that we get all of them. We have been led to believe that the complete spectrum of essential amino acids is found only in animal protein. To get an idea of what we need in the way of essential amino acids, we can look at human mothers’ milk. Since newborn people grow and double their weight in six months or less on a diet of nothing but mothers’ milk, the milk must have something going for it. Using the quantity of essential amino acids in mothers’ milk as a guide, we can compare the availability of these same nutrients in vegetables. You may be surprised to find that many common vegetables contain as much, if not more, of essential amino acids as are in mothers’ milk. For example, the collection of essential amino acids in Snap beans have more protein than mothers’ milk, and as much or more of the essential amino acids. Only cysteine is in shorter supply in green beans than in mothers’ milk, and it isn’t classified as essential. As you can see, all of the amino acids in broccoli and sweet corn, among others, outweigh their counterparts in mothers’ milk. More and more amino acids are being tagged as being essential. Under natural conditions, our modern-day bodies don’t need any more or any less dietary amino acids, vitamins, minerals or enzymes than our remote ancestors did. The significant phrase there is “natural conditions.” Today we stress our bodies by our lifestyles, including diet. Human physiological capabilities are being stretched to the maximum. Remember, the body doesn’t know time; it doesn’t plan for the future. It does what needs to be done to meet the situations of the moment.