Plant-Based Protein & Common Misconceptions

“Where do you get your protein?” It’s a common question people have for vegans. Many of us grew up believing we need lots of protein to sustain, particularly protein from animals. It’s a very common misconception that vegans can’t get enough protein without meat.

To understand the protein myth, we must know how much protein we need to begin with. Even among professionals, how much protein we need is constantly debated. But if we go by averages, the average adult male needs 56 grams of protein daily, the average female needs about 46 grams.

However, according to the New York Times article,”How Much Protein Do We Need?” the average American adult consumes over 100 grams of protein every day, or roughly double what is considered necessary. This can lead to complications, which I write more about below.

According to the article, even vegans easily & usually consume 60-80 grams of protein daily. Well over what we need, without even trying.

So now that we know getting enough protein isn’t a problem, let’s get into the more complicated part of the protein myth.

What about all the essential amino acids?

There are 20 amino acids total, 8 of which we consider “essential”. Amino acids are compounds that link together to form proteins. In simple terms, the essential amino acids are proteins our body can’t form on its own, we must get them through our diets.

The myth is that plant protein doesn’t have all the essential amino acids that animal protein does. However, all plant-based protein sources do have all the essential amino acids, just in varying quantities. Some plant-protein sources are low in one or two essential amino acids.

This is a non-issue though, as we don’t need to eat all the amino acids at once in every meal. As long as you eat multiple foods with protein throughout the day, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Here is an article that might explain amino acids better, in case I was unclear:

https://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.php

I know it’s a “vegan” site, meaning it could technically be biased, however the sources are all listed and reliable. I chose to link this site because their wording might be easier to comprehend✌🏼

Plant-based Protein Sources:

A lot of foods we eat daily already have lots of protein, as you can see above. For the average person, as long as you eat a variety of foods daily, protein will probably be an afterthought.

Please note that this is nowhere near a complete list. These are just a few things that I eat that are high in protein.

I forgot to add meat and dairy alternatives to the chart as well. Brands like Gardein, Field Roast, Beyond Burger CO. Tofurky, and more make vegan meat substitutes that taste very similar to meat, while also being high in protein. Most milk alternatives are made from nuts or soy, making them a good protein source too, averaging 4-5 grams of protein per cup of milk substitute.

There are also many brands of vegan protein powders. I don’t find them necessary, so I’ve never tried them. However if you’re an athlete or want/need to consume large amounts of protein, there are tons of great brands to swap and use instead of whey-based protein powders.

Is Too Much Protein Harmful?

High-protein, low-carb diets such as the Atkins or Keto diet boast being healthy and helping with weight loss.

But according to Harvard University, high protein diets, particularly those high in animal protein, might actually come with more risks than what it’s worth.

Eating a diet high in animal protein risks kidney damage, high cholesterol, calcium loss, increased risk of heart disease, and more, while actually making most people gain weight as they stick with it long-term.

Keep in mind that according to Harvard, these risks mostly come from eating animal products, rather than the protein itself. The source, which is linked below, says that diets high in plant-based protein may not have these same risks.

So the short answer is yes, too much protein can be harmful, depending on what your protein sources are.

*Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Please always trust your doctor for nutrition advice over what you see on my site, and remember to always do your own research*

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/well/eat/how-much-protein-do-we-need.html

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/when-it-comes-to-protein-how-much-is-too-much

https://www.healthline.com/health/too-much-protein

Here is an article that might explain amino acids better, if you’d like to read more: https://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.php

I know it’s a “vegan” site, meaning it could technically be biased, however the sources are all listed and reliable. I chose to link this site because their wording might be easier for others to comprehend✌🏼

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