One of the first things that will happen when you first transition to a plant based diet is that your friends and family (and even mere acquaintances) will suddenly locate their nutrition degree in the back of their closet. But you might be shocked to realize that even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not believe anyone is in danger of a protein deficiency, including vegans.
Most People Eat Too Much
The fact is, most people are eating far more protein than their body needs. The CDC recommends that people consume between 10 and 35% of your daily caloric needs in healthy forms of protein. For an adult man, that equates to approximately 56 grams of protein, for an average man that means about 46 grams. Remember these are for whatever the CDC has determined is average and the amount that is right for you may be different.
Complementary and Incomplete Proteins
There is a common and prevailing myth that one must work “hard” to get enough and the “right amounts” of protein if eating a whole food plant based diet. This started with the myth of the complementary proteins which was invented by Frances Moore Lappe in her book, Diet for a Small Planet which was supposed to make it easier for people to become vegans. She has since reversed her views on the idea. Plus the science doesn’t work.
The truth is that if you simply eat enough plants that make up enough calories to support your body to maintaining a normal weight for you, you’ll get plenty of protein. Plants contain all the essential amino acids needed for building a perfectly health human body. The fact is the CDC’s recommendation is twice the amount actually needed to maintain health. Very few people have ever experienced protein deficiency unless they were also deficient in a huge number of other vital nutrients.
Too Much Protein Causes Illness
In fact, eating too much protein is associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, many cancers, and truth be known, why are we focused on one source of macronutrients instead of the entire picture? When you were chowing down on that steak, no one asked you were you were getting your fiber right? Fiber is something most people do not consume enough of with the average American consuming about a third of their daily requirements. When you put that in perspective with the over consumption of protein, in which most Americans eat two or three times the recommended maximum.
While eating enough calories and macronutrients is important, protein is not one of the nutrients that anyone needs to be worried about if they’re not in a true famine. In fact, eating too much protein for your needs will cause health issues that you don’t want to have such as obesity, kidney problems, heart problems and even cancer. Other long term illnesses resulting from too much protein are neurological issues, gout, and insulin resistance. When looking at the science it’s clear that protein is not something a person living in a culture with an abundance of food sources needs to be concerned with.