Are Vegans and Vegetarians Getting Enough Protein?
The most common question of those considering switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet is, “Am I going to get enough protein?” Meat, fish, eggs and other animal products often rate as the key sources of protein in an omnivore’s diet. So, cutting out these foods usually equates with shifting to a diet low in protein or even protein deficiency. However, it is important to consider, first off, how much protein you really need, and secondly, the dangers of a diet too high in protein. I also want to show you that, you can hit your recommended daily protein target with a beauty-promoting diet, rich in plant-based foods.
Let’s break it down, Beauties.
What does “enough protein” mean?
There’s a common misconception when it comes to protein, and how much of it you need in your diet. Think of the fitness buffs who swear that a high-protein diet is a key to getting flat stomachs and bulging biceps. They’re often chugging whey protein shakes at the gym. Or chowing down on chicken, in order to hit their protein targets for the day. These “meatheads” are aiming to get upwards of 100 grams or more of protein per day. And they are usually relying on animal products to do it. Ironically, these people are the face of the mainstream “health and fitness” industry.
But is consuming that much protein on a daily basis necessary, and even healthy? As outlined by the Institute of Medicine, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for the average woman is 0.8 grams per kilogram (0.36 grams per pound), which is about 46 grams of protein. For men, it is between 52 and 56 grams. As you can see, those who are consuming high-protein diets are significantly passing their recommended daily allowance. They are actually more than doubling it. Even active athletes, who may require more to maintain or build muscle, do not need a diet as high in protein as 100+ grams per day. Further research has dispelled the myth that getting enough protein is a common problem, even in vegan and vegetarian diets.
The Risks of a High-Protein Diet
At this point, you might be thinking, “Is it so bad if I’m getting more protein than I need?” You might even say, “Isn’t a diet high in protein going to help me reach my health and fitness goals?” The truth is: a diet too high in protein is not only not beneficial to your body; it could take a toll on your energy, health, and beauty, and could even be dangerous to you.
There are multiple risks associated with a diet that is high in protein. You may already be familiar with my blogs and writings about a term called “protox,” which means protein oxidation. When animal protein is cooked or burned, it goes through a process that causes oxidative stress. This process of oxidation changes the physical and chemical properties of the animal protein. Protein oxidation is linked with many different negative side effects in the body, including aging, disease and other health risks. If you are someone who is concerned with health, aging, and beauty, then I assume you are interested in avoiding the negative effects of Protox!
Many studies have been conducted to learn more about the effects of a high protein diet. One study published in the Oxford Academic Journal found that diets with a high ratio of animal protein, in comparison with plant protein, increased the rate of bone loss and risk of fractures in women. The female participants who consumed the high-protein diets, unfortunately, became at high risk for hip fractures and femoral neck bone loss.
Another scientific study analyzed the effect of consuming whey protein on insulin levels in the body. Researchers concluded that whey protein caused an increase in insulin secretion. Equaling amounts that were even higher than after consuming white bread! As you may know, excess insulin secretion causes the body to store visceral fat. So high protein diets are a possible health risk. And they could actually be working against your fitness goals of achieving a slimmer physique!
Besides being harmful to your body, diets high in animal protein speed up the aging process and promote dehydration, and therefore take a toll on your beauty. I firmly believe that beauty comes from the inside out. So it’s no surprise that ingesting lots of damaging, toxic protein holds implications for your beauty as well.
The protox in cooked animal proteins that we discussed earlier can be a huge burden on your system, requiring a lot of energy to process. Once your body does break down the proteins, acid formation occurs along with toxicity build-up, which is ultimately very aging. Because your body focuses on processing the toxic proteins and combatting inflammation, most of your cellular energy depletes. Ultimately leaving you with less energy overall and negatively affecting your hair, skin, and nails.
Animal proteins, such as milk, are particularly hard to digest. A study published in the Dermatology Online Journal found that greater dairy consumption is linked to a prevalence of acne. Now that you know the detrimental effects of animal proteins on the body, think of how much greater these effects are with a diet focused on high amounts of animal proteins.
This shows that health goes hand-in-hand with beauty. While your overall health should be your priority, your beauty is also deeply affected by your internal health.
Does a plant-based diet provide enough protein?
Now that we’ve broken down protein requirements and seen the adverse effects of a diet too high in protein (especially animal protein), let’s talk about protein in a vegan or vegetarian diet. If you’re still worrying that a plant-based diet does not provide enough protein do not stress. There is a multitude of plant-based foods that are high in protein. They even provide the essential amino acids your body needs, while also being beauty-boosting!
As a starting point, the essential amino acids that are in meat, eggs, dairy and other animal proteins are also in plant-based foods. Researchers have found that vegetarian or vegan diets, where the source of protein comes from plants, provide plenty of protein needed to reach the recommended daily allowance, without the need to consciously combine those proteins to be complete (our bodies combine and recycle specific amino acids). Furthermore, this research concluded that diets based on plant proteins, rather than animal proteins, could contribute to reduced risk of diseases.
Dr. Winston Craig, Ph.D., M.P.H., of Andrews University, conducted a plethora of studies on plant-based diets. He assures that vegan and vegetarian diets are nutritionally adequate. And that they easily meet the recommended daily allowances for enough protein, as well as other macro- and micro-nutrients.
These claims should come as no surprise once you realize how available enough protein is in plant-based foods. For example, lentils have 9 grams of protein per serving. Chia seeds have 12 grams, quinoa has 8 grams and tempeh has 12 grams. Wow! Even cruciferous veggies, like brussels sprouts, and leafy greens, like spinach, pack in the protein! Did you know that kale contains 3 grams of protein per cup? Think of how much kale and spinach you can easily pack into a Glowing Green Smoothie!
If you’re aiming to get about 46 grams of protein per day, or even more, you can effortlessly get enough protein as a vegan or vegetarian. If you have a smoothie with spinach (5 grams of protein) and hemp protein (12 g) for breakfast, a large green salad with avocado for lunch (10g), and a meal of tempeh (31 g), quinoa (8 g) and broccoli (4 g) for dinner, you are well surpassing your daily recommended allowance for protein. Not only that, but you are also filling your body with nutrients that support detoxification, brain function, skin health and so much more!
Focus on nourishing yourself with real, beauty-boosting foods that promote energy and health. Give yourself a pat on the back for educating yourself more on this massively understood topic of protein! Until next time Beauties!