3 Myths About Protein And A Plant Based Diet. The first question I am often asked when discussing a whole plant-based diet is, “Where do you get your protein from?” Protein is widely recognized as a miracle macronutrient that seems difficult to obtain in effective doses. However, this is far from accurate. Let’s clear up three of the three most common vegetable protein misconceptions.
Myth # 1: The more protein the better
Indeed, humans need protein because it is one of the three macronutrients we need to get from our diet. Protein is involved in practically all structural and functional mechanisms in the body. All of our cells contain protein and are the building blocks of muscles, hair, nails, organs, skin, tendons, ligaments, enzymes, membranes, some hormones, hemoglobin, antibodies, enzymes and much more. Just because something is critical doesn’t mean more is better. When it comes to protein, consuming an excess of what we need can promote the disease.
The US Department of Agriculture’s recommended daily allowance for protein is 0.7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for adults over the age of 19. For the average 130-pound woman, that translates to 47 grams of protein per day. For a 170 pound man, 62 grams is recommended. Many people consume approximately 20 to 30 percent of their calories from protein, which is 90 to 135 grams of protein on a 1,800 calorie diet (typical female intake) and 125 to 188 grams of protein on a 2,500 calorie diet (average male intake). This is two to three times more than the USDA recommendations. Much of this excess protein comes from animal sources, which can be particularly harmful. Excess protein puts stress on the kidneys, contributes to gout, and is linked to an increased risk of many chronic diseases.
Myth # 2: “Complete proteins” are hard to find
The other common misconception is that animal products are the best source of protein. One big reason this myth persists is that the amino acids – the building blocks of protein – in foods of animal origin are composed to be more similar to what people actually use. However, we now know that it doesn’t matter. When you consume a protein, it is broken down into its separate amino acid components through digestion and collected in the blood for further use. When the body needs to build protein for an enzyme or repair muscle tissue, it gathers the amino acids it needs and strings them back together in the order that is appropriate for what it is making. This happens regardless of whether you consume animal or vegetable protein.
Eating a variety of whole plants can easily provide you with all of the essential amino acids necessary to keep your metabolism up and thriving. In addition, vegetable protein is perfectly packaged, along with an abundance of phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber – all important components for optimal health and disease prevention. On the contrary, animal protein is coated with unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol from food. Animal products also do not contain phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber, and contain very few vitamins and minerals.
Myth # 3: The more active you are, the more protein you will need
Humans need about 10 percent of their calories from protein. Virtually all plant-based whole foods contain at least this amount. So if you consume enough volume and variety of whole plant foods, your protein needs will be easily met. This also applies to athletes, who are often believed to need larger amounts of protein in order to maintain muscle size and optimize performance. However, athletes have an increased total calorie requirement. So when you increase your intake of whole plant foods, you automatically meet your greater needs for all macronutrients, including protein.
When it comes to protein, the point is not to consume as much as possible, but to consume the right amount. Whole plant-based foods, as found in nature, provide the ideal amount of protein necessary for the growth, maintenance and functioning of metabolic processes.