top of page

How to get enough Protein

But what about protein? How do you get enough protein? How do you get enough protein without eating meat?

The small meerkat says to the big gorilla: "No meat at all? Are you sure you're getting enough protein?" The gorilla just looks at him. Image by: Dan Piraro.
Image by: Dan Piraro.

This is the most popular question when it comes to eating this way and some people think they're being so smart when they ask it. Little do they know, it's actually a silly question once you understand these few things...

First and foremost, all protein originates from plants.

The animals that you eat are just the middle men! They eat plants, then you eat them who have already eaten the plants.

Not eating animals is simply cutting out the middleman annnd saving your body from a ton of unnecessary stress (more about that second part in a little bit).

But aren't plant proteins "incomplete"?

Nope, thats just a very common myth.

Basically, the myth says that plant protein is inferior to animal protein because it does not contain all of the essential amino acids...THIS IS FALSE! It has been proven time and time again, that every plant contains all of the essential amino acids in different proportions.

It is true that some plant foods are lower in certain amino acids than others. However our bodies break protein down into individual amino acids and then stores and recycles them for whenever we need it.

In other words, you don't have to micromanage your body! You just need to eat plants and eat enough of them.

But how much is enough? How do you know you are getting enough protein?

The short answer, we don't need near as much protein as we think we do.

As long as you are eating enough food from a variety of whole plant foods, you are eating enough protein.

In fact, as humans, we only need 5-10% of our daily calories from protein.

The largest study comparing the nutrient intake of meat-eaters vs plant-eaters showed that the average plant-eater not only gets enough protein, but 70% more than they need. Even if you do eat meat, about half of the protein you eat still comes directly from plants.

To put that into perspective, a peanut butter sandwich contains about as much protein as three ounces of beef or three large eggs. If you eat rice, which has a low amount of protein, you're already consuming 9% ... Bottom line: theres really no way to be deficient.

The only time you may need more protein is if you're healing from wounds, surgery, a major accident, etc. And even then, you only need 10-15% of your daily calories to be protein.

In many documentaries, it is mentioned how there has never been a case where someone was hospitalized because of protein deficiency. So again, as long as you are eating enough food, you are getting enough protein.

Too much protein of ANY kind...

"Too much protein of any kind leads to increased risks of heart disease, cancer, kidney function disorders, osteoporosis, liver disease, and other chronic conditions. It also reduces autophagy, keeping your body from 'cleaning house'."

-Dean Ornish, M.D. (Undo It!)

Contrary to what diet culture tells us, eating as much protein as you can, of any kind, can be harmful to your body.

USDA dietary guidelines in 2016 stated that at least half of the population is consuming too much protein. So this isn't just pertaining to the protein or meat obsessed people that you may be thinking about right now. This is the general public.

"In a study over 130,000 men and women, animal protein intake was associated with higher premature mortality from all causes, whereas plant protein was associated with lower mortality from all causes including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and the most common types of cancer. Replacing animal protein with plant protein lowered the risk of premature mortality."

-Dean Ornish, M.D. (UnDo It!)

Animal protein specifically, accelerates heart disease, cancer cell growth, kidney disease, diabetes, other chronic diseases, and early death.

Just a few things out of the many things I can say about this....

Animal protein causes stress on our kidneys. The inflammation caused by animal protein puts them into hyper filtration mode. This does not happen with plant protein.

The moment you eat a piece of meat, your arteries constrict and tighten making it harder for blood to flow through. It also elevates blood cholesterol levels and slows down our blood flow.

Animal protein stimulates the production of estrogen in your body which causes breast cancer. It also stimulates the production of other hormones like IGF-1 (insulin-like-growth factor 1). IGF-1 is a cancer promoting growth hormone that is released in excess when we eat animal protein.

Other hormones that are stimulated from animal protein contribute to heart disease, obesity, and cancer cell growth. In fact, the more meat that a population of humans eats, the higher the cancer rates.

Protein is not a good group graphic by wfpb_me
Protein is not a food group

Lastly, protein is not a food group!

So often, we use the word "protein" in place of the word "meat".

For example, almost every time I order food without meat at a restaurant, the person taking my order will ask me if I'd like to add any protein to my meal. Even if I'm ordering online, there is almost always a section to "add protein" with a list of a couple different types of meat and sometimes tofu.

It drives me crazy because the meal that I'm ordering already has protein! Even a plain plate of spaghetti has protein! Again, ALL PROTEIN ORIGINATES FROM PLANTS. What we should be asking each other is if we'd like any meat or tofu with that.

This is just one example of where this misuse of the word shows up. Now that I've mentioned it, I'm sure you'll begin to notice how often and incorrectly the word protein is thrown around.

Now don't get me wrong, protein is important. However, our bodies reasons for needing it have been skewed since the beginning due to cultural standards and not having access to the long term information that we do now.

In the China study, T. Colin Campbell, PhD explains that

Proteins of other animals have been considered "high-quality" and plant proteins "low-quality". However, the term quality really means "the efficiency with which food proteins are used to promote growth". This would be fine if the greatest efficiency is what is going to give us the greatest health. But there is a mountain of research that proves that that is not the case. In fact, this compilation of research shows that plant protein aka "low-quality", which is slower when creating new proteins, is the healthiest type of protein.

So whats the best way to get protein?

The short answer, EAT REAL FOOD. Simple as that.

If you still want to control your protein intake:

WFPB foods with a lot of protein, sources of plant based protein, vegan protein
WFPB foods with a lot of protein

Key things to remember

Contrary to fad diets, a high protein diet can contribute to disease and many other health problems.

Too much protein of any kind leads to increased risks of heart disease, cancer, kidney function disorders, osteoporosis, liver disease, and other chronic conditions.

Animal protein specifically, accelerates heart disease, cancer cell growth, kidney disease, diabetes, other chronic diseases, and early death.

Instead of seeking out sources of protein, try turning your attention toward sources of FIBER. Fiber is important because it makes sure that what we put into our bodies, eventually finds its way out. Fiber is a nutrient that most people are lacking and it is only found in plants!

Don't just take my word for it!

These 3 documentaries should help clear up all of the protein questions you may still have or need further proof/ examples for:

Food Choices (available on Amazon Prime)

Game Changers (available on Netflix)

Forks Over Knives (available on Tubi)

If you'd rather read about it, these 3 books will be very helpful to you:

UnDo It! by: Dean Ornish, MD and Anne Ornish

The China Study by: T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD

How Not To Die by: Michael Greger, MD with Gene Stone

I hope this helps!


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page