The Myth: Vegans have no good source of protein.
Whenever I tell people that we eat vegan, I almost always get the question, “so how do you get protein without meat or dairy? Isn’t that bad not to get all that protein? Aren’t you going to have an iron deficiency or something?”
The topic of protein has been up for discussion for a couple hundred years. People have always been debating what is necessary for successful weight control and sustainable health. Whether its lean meats or fried chicken, most people are under the impression that animal-based protein is an essential part of our everyday diet.
I hate to break it to you, but this is a myth. Luckily for the vegans of the world, humans can in fact get all the necessary proteins through plant based sources.
Demystifying the Myth
- You can actually get all the essential amino acids from plant proteins. There are 20 amino acids in proteins. Humans can only synthesize 12 of these, but only 8 amino acids are actually essential to human bodies. As Dr. McDougall says, “Plants alone meet the entire protein and amino acid needs of the earth’s largest animals, including elephants, hippopotamuses, giraffes, and cows, all of which are vegetarian. If plants can satisfy the demands of these enormous mammals, wouldn’t you think they could easily meet our own protein needs?” (The Starch Solution).
- Oh, you’re a protein buff? Eat some broccoli! According to the research of Drs. Pulde and Lederman, broccoli has a higher percentage of protein than pork, salmon, chicken, eggs, beef, and cheddar cheese! You can find more info in their book, Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole.
- Too much of a good thing… By focusing on eating broccoli and other plant-based proteins, you avoid over-working your liver and kidneys with trying to deal with all the extra protein that comes with an animal product-based diet. The protein in meat and cheese is in an extremely dense form that easily leads to great excesses of protein consumption, which is why it is ultimately damaging to the body and impairs the function of these organs.
- Mo’ veggies, mo’ iron. Here’s something to think about – if we are so obsessed with getting our iron through beef and other meats, where do you think those cows and their animal friends are getting their healthy doses of iron? From eating plants! Iron is a mineral from the ground that plants soak up, so it really isn’t necessary to consume meat in order to get healthy amounts of it.
- We don’t need as much protein as we think. For about the past 40 years, the World Health Organization has consistently recommended that people limit protein to only 5% of their total caloric intake. However, American’s regularly consume anywhere from 10%-35% protein calories a day (Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole). Here’s another way to think about it: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn recommends about 50 to 70 grams of plant proteins a day to maintain a healthy diet. However, the average Western diet consists of 100 to 160 grams per day. That’s a little crazy!
While I’m sure I’ll still be getting the question about protein, I hope this will illuminate a bit of the logic as well as some of the benefits behind a whole foods plant-based diet. Now, go out and eat some plants!