Poisoning the Protein

I am a vegetarian.  I have been for the past twenty-three years (for those of you doing the math, I decided to go veggie when I was 4 years-old).  My parents allowed me to do this if I kept myself healthy, ate well and didn’t suffer any other adverse effects.  When I was thirteen, I broke my finger, badly.  Yeah, Katie Bachman sure could kick a soccer ball, but my finger shouldn’t have broken that easily.  So, a diet revision was in order.  Enter Morningstar Farms.  And later Boca Burger. My new diet supplements were meat substitutes made of derived protein.

Over the years, these meat substitutes became more popular and expanded from just burgers to chicken patties, ground meat, sausage, brats, etc.  In taste tests, kids even preferred the faux hot dogs – and they’re marketed to moms because they’re less fat!

Great, right?  What could possibly be wrong with this great line of products?!  Less fat?  Nothing wrong with that!  Expensive?  Got over that a long time ago.

They’re made of derived proteins.  That’s what’s wrong.  Let me explain.

I workout daily doing cardio and weight training.  I know to keep myself healthy, I need protein, but how much protein should I be getting?  I looked up this nifty calculator.  I need 86 grams of protein per day based on my height, weight and activity level – at minimum!

Here is a general chart to help you calculate how much protein you get in a day:

Protein Chart

Then I got curious about my meat substitute’s contribution toward my goal and whether or not I should look into protein shakes.  I hit Google.  Then I read ingredients lists on protein shakes.  Whoa!  Hydrolyzed proteins.  Then I realized I hadn’t read the ingredients on my meat substitutes in a while.

Last Monday morning, I called Boca.  After the question, “Do your products contain MSG?” left my lips, the line was silent.  I repeated myself.  The representative started a canned spiel about how Boca is concerned about the health and safety of its consumers.  I cut him short.  I told him I appreciate the script, but just want the facts.  He then stumbled over some words I had heard before, so I recognized immediately what he wouldn’t say:  their products do contain MSG.  Hydrolyzed protein is one phrase.  Wherever you see it, there will be MSG.

The Boca representative then went on to tell me that the FDA does not find MSG to be harmful in low levels and how their products do not contain more than the legal limit designated by the Federal government.  Feeling saucy, and duped again by another company, I quipped, “So, if I eat multiple products during the day with the legal limit of MSG, would I then not be over the legal limit healthy for consumption?”  He searched the script while mumbling, “uh and um”.  Sorry, Jason, you had to get me that day.  I thanked him and hung up.

I didn’t bother calling Morningstar Farms as the ingredients listed it clearly on their website:  hydrolyzed protein.

What to do about protein?  I’m not giving up on my search for food that doesn’t make me sick.  And I hope you all realize MSG isn’t just harmful to those who are most sensitive.  It’s like anything else.  It’s not good for you, it is just the people most sensitive who recognize it.  Try going MSG free, see how you feel – and you’ll know the next time you encounter MSG.  Detox, as I joke, for a month.  MSG can cause moodiness, depression, anger, headaches and I’m sure other internal damage.  It is found in foods everywhere – and it isn’t always listed on the label, but hidden in hydrolyzed proteins, artificial ingredients, etc.

So, I’m on the search for healthy sources of protein.  I immediately thought of making trail mixes with seeds and nuts, yogurt, drinkable yogurt, cheese, peanut butter, milk, bean everything, etc.  But, I need to calculate protein intake.  I need your help finding healthy, natural protein packed foods.

3 thoughts on “Poisoning the Protein”

  1. I’m still a really dumb vegetarian — I read nutrition labels and ingredients to make sure things don’t have hidden meat juice and such, but I still haven’t learned the “secret” terms like hydrolyzed proteins. So thanks for the info! 🙂

    While my diet still is not the best after a summer-long round of depression (MSG, were you a factor?! Probably not, but it’s nice to have something else to blame.), I do eat Gardenburgers as a key part of the meals I do make. I only eat the ones that aren’t meant to taste like meat — black bean chipotle is my favorite, but I also love veggie medley and portabella. You have to be careful because of all the sodium, but they still keep me pretty happy, and it’s better than eating potato chips for dinner. Still, I don’t know what all of the ingredients mean, so I’m thinking this will be my new investigative project.

  2. While not being a vegetarian, I try to avoid this stuff. I thought I read somewhere that MSG occurs naturally in some foods. If you eat the natural foods it is in and the processed foods then you probably going over the amount you should ingest.

  3. Peanuts/peanut butter. Cheese. Milk. Whole wheat bread.
    A PBJ with a glass of milk would cover nearly half of your 86 grams.

    And glutamate(G in MSG) is an amino acid, proteins are comprised of amino acids. The human body produces glutamate and is used in brain functions and metabolism.

    Your body processes glutamate that occurs naturally the same that it processes MSG. So the G portion isn’t a medical concern.
    Monosodium is your enemy here. But there is 1/3 less sodium in MSG than there is in table salt(40% to 13%).

    Hundreds of studies have been done on MSG, and one of the few with a negative outlook concluded that only a select few people had an adverse reaction. But that was ONLY when it was consumed by itself, with no food, and consumed in well beyond normal everyday quantities. And those results weren’t observed when MSG was given in the same quantity with food, and the results couldn’t be reproduced.

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