Q&A with Dr. Fogarty: Why all proteins are not created equal

Dr. Fogarty, a nutrition and exercise expert from the UK, talks to Spinaca on the science behind how eating a vegetable-heavy rainbow diet can help you live a longer, healthier life.

Mark Fogarty earned a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology and Biochemistry at the University of Ulster in the United Kingdom where he has been researching, publishing and lecturing on natural nutritional intervention in the context of exercise stress for over a decade.


Spinaca Farms: There are so many ways to get protein into our diets—are all proteins created equal?

Dr. Fogarty: Nope! All proteins are not created equal at all—no! Even meat proteins vary from animal to animal. Beef has more fat and iron while chicken, for example, tends to be a leaner source of proteins. Fish is again high fat and high protein but has different types of fats than red meat—often considered the good fats, but I’m not sure I agree with that sentiment entirely. Whey protein comes from cow milk, and plant proteins….well those come from plants.

Spinaca Farms: If I choose to get my protein from red meat, chicken, fish, plant-based, whey-based, etc., does it all get converted the same way in our bodies?

Dr. Fogarty: Protein and fat content differ from source to source so how it interacts in our bodies changes a little here and there. Red meat and fish probably take a bit longer to digest than a lean source like chicken because fat slows down the rate of gastric emptying, but the margins here aren’t particularly massive.

Spinaca Farms: What is the most important thing to keep in mind when selecting dietary protein sources?

Dr. Fogarty: What is important to consider is the amino acid profile. The end goal of all protein in our diet regardless of the source is that it gets broken down into amino acids which are then used to build everything in our bodies.

There are 20 amino acids in total 11 we can make from the code in our DNA the other 9 we have to consume in our diets. Animal and fish protein contain all 9 essential amino acids whereas plant-based proteins are missing one, two or three essential amino acids.

So if you’re a veggie or vegan you have to take more care to ensure you have a wider protein intake than just a few select foods or run the risk of very easily and very quickly become deficient in important amino acids. Two signs to watch out for are brittle finger and toenails and poor hair quality (think dull or lots of dead hair when you brush it). So if your mane is looking dull take a look at your diet and get those aminos in.

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