I've been mostly vegan for over 30 years, and if I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times: "Where do you get your protein?"
I have several replies on the ready.
"I get it from the same place as the largest land mammals--gorillas, elephants, giraffes--green vegetables!" (It turns out that most folks have never considered the fact that, despite a near-vegan diet and restricted access to tofurky and soysage, protein deficiency has never been found among these creatures.)
Sometimes I try this response, "I get plenty of protein from whole, unrefined plant foods. Did you know dark leafy greens are almost 50% protein?"
But here's my favorite, "Which do you think has more protein, 100 calories of broccoli or 100 calories of steak?" After a brief pause, I deliver the punchline.
"Calorie per calorie, broccoli has twice as much protein as steak!" (Not to mention a host of anti-cancer, anti-aging phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber!)
But when I think about it, I really shouldn't even indulge these interlocutors by addressing their question directly because their question assumes that protein deficiency is something we should worry about. The truth is. . . .
Most Americans Get Too Much Protein
Did you know that most Americans get TOO MUCH protein (and not nearly enough fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals)? You may be forgiven for NOT knowing since excess protein is featured in almost every diet known to man, and our very own government, by way of the Meat & Dairy Industrial Complex Lobby, has, year after year, emphasized protein in its nutritional recommendations. This, despite the fact that no scientific study has ever found excess protein to be correlated to decreased rates of cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.
In fact, it's the opposite! High-protein/high-meat diets come along with a host of adverse effects, like:
1. Disorders of bone and calcium homeostasis--increasing risk for bone loss and hip fracture (Delimaris, 2013)
2. Problems with renal function--increasing risk for kidney stones
3. Increased cancer risk--animal protein and animal fat are positively associated with some cancers , especially breast, prostrate, and colon cancers.
4. Coronary artery disease--high-protein diets may result in lipid deposition and increase inflammation, thereby increasing your risk of coronary artery disease.
Beware, Junk-food Vegans
There is one way an otherwise healthy person could become protein-deficient--by living on vegan junk food (e.g., tofutti cuties, fake meat products, bread, pasta, even Oreos are vegan!).
How to Get Enough Protein
By subsisting on the foods linked to the lowest rates of lifestyle diseases (diabetes, heart disease, some cancers), you'll get more than enough protein along with a variety of amino acids.
What foods are those? Whole fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. (Check out this post to learn more.)
Speaking of beans, are you looking for a way to get more into your diet? Each WellBean has a half-serving of nutrient-rich beans, fruit, and nuts and fits easily into your purse or backpack. Unlike most other snack bars out there, we have intentionally not added any protein to our recipe, so you won't find any extracted proteins listed on the label. All the protein, fat, and carbohydrates come in their original form along with the fiber and resistant starch they started with.
Fill yourself with WellBean. :-)
Delimaris, Ioannis. “Adverse Effects Associated with Protein Intake above the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Adults,” ISRN Nutrition, vol. 2013, Article ID 126929, 6 pages, 2013. https://doi.org/10.5402/2013/126929.