Leucine: An Interesting Example of the 'Vegetarian Agenda' at Work

Leucine: An Interesting Example of the 'Vegetarian Agenda' at Work
Photo by Sherman Kwan / Unsplash

I'm far more tolerant of different eating patterns than I was when I first trained in nutrition. Really, if you can mainly eat real food that's not been processed beyond recognition, you're well-ahead of the curve and the specific composition often becomes academic. Especially if you're in decent health.

However, this article was a startling example of a creepy sort of hidden veggie agenda. I was researching dietary sources of leucine, a branched-chain amino acid that plays a key roll in circadian rhythms. I Googled it, and the first article I came to was "10 Healthy High Leucine Foods" on Healthline.

I became skeptical immediately as the first source mentioned was "kidney beans." It may be possible to get sufficient high quality protein from vegetarian sources, depending on factors such as your activity level, your current levels of health, your genetics, and the quality of food you're eating. But animal sources, per serving, will tend to be larger sources of amino acids. That's a no brainer.

I continued to scroll to discover that every single one of the items on the Healthline list was vegetarian (they included eggs and cottage cheese). The rest were legumes, nuts, seeds and grains.

My nutrition researcher spidy sense called "bullshit" and went over to "myfooddata" to look for the quantitatively largest sources of leucine. The first 4 are:
- chicken leg
- beef
- pork chops
- tuna

I wouldn't take issue if the Healthline article qualified its list by *even mentioning* that it had restricted its list to vegetarian sources. However, they completely fail to mention that they've excluded the top nutritional sources of the amino acid they're discussing, pretending that the foods they're listing are simply the top sources of the amino acid in question, not a list of specifically vegetarian sources.

They write:

"Fortunately, deficiency in this amino acid is rare because of the wide array of foods that contain it. Here are 10 high leucine foods"


"Fortunately, plenty of healthy, tasty foods contain leucine, including eggs, seeds, oats, legumes, and spirulina, and they’re all easy to incorporate into your diet."

This is not to take issue with high-quality vegetarian diets or vegetarian sources of protein. This is simply a friendly reminder of an important point to be aware of when reading nutrition information on the internet.

In fact, generally that's a fairly ill-advised activity. It's pretty wild out there.