On Nutrition: Protein and vegetarian diet concerns | Health

Dear readers: I am encouraging all who can, and haven’t, to get vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease known as COVID-19 that’s wreaking havoc around the world. The longer significant numbers of people refuse to take the shot, the greater the risk that increasingly nasty variants can emerge. Even more worrisome, the unvaccinated risk serving as vectors to infect their own families, friends and any vulnerable people around them.

I have followed the research behind the vaccines’ development and have confidence in their safety and efficacy. This is good science, marvelously developed with fantastic speed.

Personal freedoms notwithstanding, we must all act responsibly. Who wants to get sick or be responsible for making those around us ill to express some twisted point? Please step up and contribute to the end of the pandemic rather than fostering its continuance.

Dear Dr. Blonz: I am interested in the “complementary protein” approach to vegetarianism, as my family has decided to move in that direction. One of the motivations for the shift was an online presentation we attended about how this way of eating can help slow climate change. The switch has been difficult, and I would greatly appreciate knowing your position on the subject. — J.T., via email

Dear J.T.: Proteins are composed of chains of individual amino acids bound together and folded into three-dimensional arrangements specific to their function. Our body can make most, but not all, of the 20 amino acids it uses; nine need to be provided in the foods we eat. These nine essential amino acids (EAAs) are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. When we eat protein, the enzymes of digestion break it into its amino acid parts — a necessary step before absorption. We need a regular supply of all the EAAs to make our protein, but it makes no difference whether they come from a “protein” food that has them all or from a combination of other foods with one or more amino acids that, combined, provide what the body requires.