Animal Action Network
A non-profit Colorado Group Working for Compassion
It is easy for a vegan diet to meet recommendations for protein, as long as calorie intake is adequate. Strict protein combining is not necessary; it is more important to eat a varied diet throughout the day. Some Americans are obsessed with protein. Vegans are bombarded with questions about where they get their protein. This concern about protein is misplaced. Alt-hough protein is certainly an essential nutrient which plays many key roles in the way our bodies function, we do not need huge quantities of it. Only about one calorie out of every 10 we take in needs to come from protein. Vegan athletes, especially in the early stages of training, may have higher protein needs than vegans who exercise moderately or who are not active. How much protein do we need? The RDA recommends that we take in 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram that we weigh (or about 0.36 grams of protein per pound that we weigh). If we look at what vegans are eating, we find that, typically, between 10-12% of calories come from protein. This contrasts with the protein intake of non-vegetarians, which is close to 14-18% of calories. So, in the United States it appears that vegan diets are commonly lower in protein than standard American diets. Remember, though, with protein, more (than the RDA) is not necessarily better. There do not appear to be health advantages to consuming a high protein diet. Diets that are high in protein may even increase the risk of osteoporosis and kidney disease. Proteins are part of every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies. Most adults in the United States get more than enough protein to meet their needs. It's rare for someone who is healthy and eating a varied diet to not get enough protein. Proteins are made up of amino acids. Think of amino acids as the building blocks. There are 20 different amino acids that join together to make all types of protein. Some of these amino acids can't be made by our bodies, so these are known as essential amino acids. It's essential that our diet provide these. Plants have protein, so vegans get their protein from plant sources. By eating a variety of whole plant foods, humans can easily meet their daily protein needs. Protein is found in the following foods: legumes (dry beans and peas); tofu; nuts and seeds; soy/nut milk products; grains, some vegetables, and some fruits (provide only small amounts of protein relative to other sources).