Concerned about getting enough protein on a vegan plant-based diet? Where do you get it? How much is enough? In this interview, Dr. Michael Greger addresses common questions about plant-based protein (and busts a few myths along the way!)
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How to get protein on a plant-based diet is one of the most common nutritional concerns for new vegans and people considering going vegan. What are the best plant-based sources of protein? Can you even get enough protein on a plant-based diet?
If you’re not familiar with Dr. Greger, he’s a licensed general practitioner specializing in clinical nutrition, an author, and an internationally-recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues.
This interview is the first in the Vegan Nutrition Concerns Series with Dr. Greger. This series addresses common nutrient-specific concerns when transitioning to a plant-based diet, and touches upon the health impact of animal products.
The following transcript of my interview with Dr. Greger (from the video above) is edited for clarity. I’ve also changed the order and structure of his responses for better readability.
Dr Greger: It’s the source [of the protein] that matters. [Whether] we’re talking about carbs, fat, or protein—it’s really the source [that matters]. Carbs [can be] lentils and lollipops. Fat can be Crisco and lard, or it can be walnuts.
The protein “superstars” of the plant kingdom are the legumes: beans, peas, chickpeas, split peas, lentils. We should all be including legumes in our daily diet. [They] are packed with all sorts of wonderful things.
You [can also] get proteins from whole grains, nuts, and seeds, and [other] things. But I encourage people to eat legumes every day because they’re so powerful in supporting a healthy, long life.
In my interview with Dr. Greger, my initial question was regarding dietary protein sources when not consuming animal products. In his response, Dr. Greger ventured into a commentary on this hyper-fixation with adequate dietary protein.
Dr Greger: It’s surprising there’s so much fuss [about protein]. The average requirement is about 42 grams. Meat eaters get about 75 grams, and so do vegans, and so do vegetarians.
Everybody gets about 70% more protein than they need.1 They only need about 0.8 grams per kilogram [of] healthy body weight.
In a…survey that the government does every few years—about 3% [of people] are not getting enough protein.2 But that’s just because they’re typically not eating a lot.
If you don’t eat enough food, you don’t eat enough protein. So, if you’re on a severely calorie-restricted diet, you have to be more careful about nutrients.
While this interview is about plant-based protein, Dr. Greger brought up an important point. While we tend to wring our hands over getting enough protein, another nutrient with statistically significant deficiency data goes largely unaddressed.
The question isn’t “where do you get your protein?” the question should be “where do you get your fiber?” because fiber is the one that 97% [of Americans] don’t even reach the recommended daily minimum.
Getting sufficient amounts [of fiber] lower[s] rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.4 And so, these are the nutrients we have to think about getting enough of [when] living basically anywhere in the industrialized world.
I hope you enjoyed hearing from Dr. Greger on the issue of protein in a plant-based vegan diet.
Remember, a vegan diet can be as varied as you want and can come in countless forms. Veganism doesn’t dictate what you can eat—just what (or, more accurately, whom) you don’t eat!
If you need some guidance on going vegan, check out the free How to Go Vegan Guide!
I’d love to hear from you on this: where do you get your protein? Let me know in the comments!
— Emily Moran Barwick
Please note that when it comes to your health and nutrition, there is no substitute for the guidance of a trained medical professional, especially if you have any medical conditions or complications.
Finding a plant-based provider can be challenging, depending on your location and health insurance (or lack thereof). In the accordion below are online directories for plant-based providers. I hope to expand the list to include ones that serve more countries. If you know of any additional directories, please let me know!
Plant-based medical provider directories
Please note: in listing these directories, I am not recommending or endorsing them or any health care providers listed within them.
- The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) (Worldwide)
- Plantrician Providers (U.S.)
- Plant-Based Health Professionals (UK)
- Plant-Based Canada (Canada)
- Vegan Friendly Registered Dietitians (Worldwide – telehealth) from Challenge22
Do you know of other directories? Especially ones serving more parts of the world? Please let me know!
MORE FROM THE VEGAN NUTRITION CONCERNS SERIES:
- The Crime Of Raising Vegan Kids | When Diet Is Deadly
- How NOT To DIE: Foods That Add Years | Dr. Michael Greger
- Deadly Nutrition: The REAL Dietary Killers | Dr. Michael Greger
- How to Get Carnitine, Carnosine & Creatine on a Vegan Diet | Dr. Michael Greger of Nutritionfacts.org
- How to Get Iodine on a Plant-Based Vegan Diet | Dr. Michael Greger of Nutritionfacts.org
- How to Get Zinc on a Plant-Based Vegan Diet | Dr. Michael Greger of Nutritionfacts.org
- How to Get Vitamin B12 on a Plant-Based Vegan Diet | Dr. Michael Greger of Nutritionfacts.org
- How to Get Vitamin D on a Plant-Based Vegan Diet | Dr. Michael Greger of Nutritionfacts.org
- How to Get Iron on a Plant-Based Vegan Diet | Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org
- How to Get Calcium on a Plant-Based Vegan Diet | Dr. Michael Greger of Nutritionfacts.org