Where do you get your protein is definitely the most frequently asked question I get for eating a Whole Food Plant Based diet. Most people find out I’m not eating meat, and immediately worry about my protein levels. They believe this is the single most important nutrient there is. So let’s answer this question with a bit of research…
Why is protein so important?
Protein is one of the three Macronutrients:
This Macronutrient is a Nitrogen containing chemical used to create body tissue, enzymes, hormones, etc… Protein does not work alone though. The Macronutrients work together to complete certain functions in the body. For example:
- Protein + Carbs = Glycoprotein
- Protein + Lipids = Lipoproteins
So focusing on “only, or mainly” protein can be just as harmful as not getting enough protein because our goal should be to eat a balanced diet consisting of all the Macro and Micro nutrients as well as the essential vitamins combined. We don’t need to go looking for foods that contain high amounts of protein, especially when many of those foods, such as meat and dairy, in so many ways compromise our health.
Do plant foods contain enough protein?
It has been engrained in our minds from early childhood that animal-based foods are the only foods that contain sufficient protein, and that if we don’t eat enough we will become protein deficient. This is simply not true. The truth is, that protein deficiency is extremely rare and almost exclusively seen in people suffering from some sort of a calorie deficiency. In these cases, there will be an overall nutrient deficiency, not just a protein deficiency.
How much protein do we need?
According to the Recommended Dietary Allowance, 8-10% of our daily caloric intake should come from protein. When you eat a balanced Whole Food Plant Based diet, approximately 10% of your total caloric intake will naturally be from protein. So you will be right in line with the daily recommendation. In fact, if you eat animal proteins, you should worry more about how much cholesterol you are getting, rather than about how much protein you’re getting.
How much protein do certain plant foods contain? Here’s just a few listed, and it goes on and on:
- Soy milk – 4 to 8 grams per 8 ounces
- Chia seeds – 2 TBS = 4 grams of protein
- Legumes – 1/2 cup = 15 to 26 grams of protein
- Almonds – 1/2 cup = 8 grams of protein
- Hemp seeds – 3 TBS = 10 grams of protein
So don’t be too overly concerned about your protein intake when eating plant foods. Be more focused on balance. Using tools like Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen app will help you stay balanced and full of energy, vitality and of course – protein!