28/01/2014 12:59 GMT | Updated 30/03/2014 06:59 BST

Do Young Vegetarians Know All Proteins Are Not Equal?

No one should be deficient in protein in the western world yet many people are because of vegetarianism or their obsession with consuming low-fat or low calorie foods. By avoiding foods containing natural fats and oils you unknowingly cut out critical proteins too. Millions of people do not get enough protein and the consequences of this will be tragic.

As long ago as 2004 The Food Standards Agency in the UK published a report that revealed the blood plasma of a quarter of British men and a third of women was iron deficient. (Sunday Times, 8 February 2004)

Now, poor protein levels mean poor blood quality which leads to anaemia. This occurs when there is a decrease of haemoglobin in the blood caused by an iron or B12 deficiency.

Vegetarians and more particularly vegetarian women are at an even higher risk of this. A low level of (animal) protein intake combined with blood lost through menstruation greatly increases the need for Iron and B12 supplementation. This could easily be avoided with a little attention to your quality protein intake.

Protein absorption is a concern that has evaded doctors understanding for a long time. This measure is called Biological Value (BV); it measures the amount of protein retained in the body in direct relation to how much is eaten. A whole egg is rated 100 in absorbability. Brown rice and beans are 59% and 49%, respectively. So the body's utilisation of the protein in rice and beans is around a half of that of an egg. More importantly there is simply not much protein in rice and beans so you would need a lot more of them to get your daily requirement of protein.

The problem with that is that rice and beans are loaded with carbohydrates (carbs are good remember, but not in excess). This will send blood sugar levels soaring and will add to excess body fat. A combination of protein and carbohydrates is a superior form of fuel. Protein isn't just burnt for fuel however, but is vital for cellular construction. A protein shortage won't kill you then, but it will mean your body can't regenerate its cells to rebuild itself. If this deficiency is sustained then degenerative diseases will occur.

Proteins combined with fats are essential for our bodies. Fats in meat and eggs are best for dissolving fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K which are used for keeping skin firm and preventing wrinkles, maintaining eyesight, sunlight tolerance good, lubricating joints and control blood clotting systems. Vegetarians are often deficient in the fat-soluble vitamins I have listed above. Conclusion, humans are meant to be omnivorous.

Listen, the only other mammal with carnivorous teeth and a carnivorous digestive system who chooses to eat no meat is the panda - and they're not doing that well. "No meat mum, just some bamboo shoots for me" Well okay, vegetarian women everywhere, if you too want big black circles around your eyes, energy only enough to swing around on a tyre suspended from a rope all day and find no one wants to sleep with you then vegetarianism is the way to go! Oh, and guys, men who are vegetarian are less fertile than meat eaters.

High quality protein keeps you strong and being strong keeps you slim. Every cell in our body requires protein. Hair, nails, skin, are all made from proteins. Proteins are made from small chemicals called amino acids. There are 22 amino acids, some of which can be manufactured by the body if necessary. Twelve of them however cannot. This means if they are not in your food they are not in you. They are known as 'the essential amino acids'. Your body takes amino acids from the food you eat into what is called its amino pool. This pool strings together the amino acids in chains and sends them out to perform different tasks. Build blood cells, fight off foreign invaders and so on.

Children in particular need a specific three for strong healthy bones, muscles and organs. They are arginine, taurine and histidine. They are used in growth. Governments worldwide have tried to address this deficiency at various times by reintroducing free milk in schools but as a food for even young adults, milk is flawed. Milk is full of nutrients to support body tissues through a very fast growing period, but it holds less benefit after weaning. This is because well over two thirds of people stop producing lactase, the enzyme that helps us to digest milk sugar, after weaning. The Institute for Optimum Nutrition states on its website that the more dairy products people consumed, the more likely they were to have problems with digestion, hormones, immunity and cardiovascular system. I have personally recommended a complete removal of dairy for many of my clients suffering from asthma and it invariably proved to be a positive action.

We are all taught that dairy is vital to provide us with calcium for our bones but in countries such as China and India, little dairy is consumed but incidences of bone deficiency diseases such as osteoporosis are fewer. Have a little skimmed milk in your cereal by all means but your calcium requirement is better served from salmon, sardines, (whose bones are edible) green leafy vegetables, beans and nuts (all consumed moderately but regularly).

We would all work more efficiently if we included more sources of proteins in our diet. Different protein containing foods have different amino acids. That is why our diets need to be varied. By combining different proteins daily we can easily ingest all our requirements. This because eggs, chicken, fish, beans, pulses, lentils, rice - all good sources of protein. They may be deficient in one or more amino acid individually but eating a variety of each every day will allow your body to fill in the gaps as it goes.

How does that make you feel about such things as the 'cabbage soup' diet or similar nonsense that revolves around one food as an answer to weight problems? These are designed for lazy individuals who place no value on maintaining their health alongside weight loss and any weight loss is always short lived as the eating 'regime' invariably can never be maintained. The lady below was vegetarian for no better reason than it was 'fashionable' before she became a client of mine-check out the difference for yourself.

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