Where do you get your protein? This is usually the first question someone asks me after mentioning that I am vegan. I created this guide to clarify the whole protein “issue” that always seems to come up in conversations. I am not an expert by any means. This is based off of my own knowledge derived from books, documentaries, and other credible sources.
Why do we need protein? Protein is needed for growth, repair from injury, and replacement of worn-out cells.
There is no such thing as “protein deficiency”. There is no medical term for it because it simply does not exist. The truth is, protein is mainly needed for growth after the first few months of being born which is provided by a mother’s milk (about 6% of calories from protein). After we are done growing, we do not need as much protein especially coming from animal products or supplements which contain enormous amounts of fat and artificial ingredients.
High-protein foods cause acidity in our bodies. Foods that are high in protein tend to be too acidic for the body to process. When the body becomes very acidic, the body tries to counterbalance it by pulling calcium from our bones. This can cause calcium deficiency which may lead to osteoporosis. Statistically, Americans consume more dairy than any other country in the world, yet we have the highest number of people suffering from osteoporosis, or calcium deficiency.
Foods perceived to have a large amount of protein tend to have a tremendous amount of fat. For example, eggs, beef, and cheese are high protein foods that contain 60%-80% fat. So, when the percentage of calories from fat increases, the percentage of protein from total calories decreases. This means that people who try to follow a high-protein, animal-based diet tend to consume more fat than protein. An excessive amount of fat in your diet thickens your blood which may lead to heart disease, cancer, and so on.
How much protein do we need? In his book The China Study, T. Colin Campbell states that we require “only 5-6% of our total calories to come from protein in order to replace the protein we routinely lose.”
There are plenty of protein sources in the vegan diet. Below is a chart that shows the protein content of some common foods. These numbers represent the amount of protein content as a percentage of total calories. You can see that we can get our protein from fruits and vegetables alone. There is no need to actively incorporate protein into our diets because it is found in most foods. Think about this, an adult gorilla which is typically 6 times stronger than an adult human, follows a plant-based diet.
Campbell, T. Colin. The China Study. Dallas, Texas. BenBella Books, Inc. 2004.
Graham, N. Douglas. The 80/10/10 Diet. FoodnSport Press. 2006.
Fulkerson, Lee. Forks Over Knives [DVD]. United States: Monica Beach Media. 2011.