How can you get enough protein as a vegan? This is a typical question you will face as a vegan. Protein is always something that people worry or have concerns about. However, if we look at today’s society, we hardly see people who suffer from protein deficiency. Rather most people lack fiber intake from plant foods, especially in fruits and vegetables.
So, how do vegans get enough protein?
According to one of the most prominent research studies in the world, Adventist Health Study, vegans get about 70.7 grams of protein/day, while non-vegetarians get about 74.7 grams of protein/day. (1) Only a tiny difference between the two groups! And the average need of protein in a day for men is 56 grams and women 46 grams. (2) Although it will be different if you are an athlete, average vegans already get way more than enough protein they need per day!
But, where do vegans get their protein from?
Protein is everywhere! Although some might contain more than others, protein can be found in almost all plants from whole grains (e.g., rice, pasta, millet, quinoa), vegetables, fruit, beans, and nuts! Some people might be surprised that fruits like guava and avocado contain a good amount of protein too! If you eat a well-planned vegan meal with whole grains, beans, fruit, veggies, and nuts, you certainly get the protein you need unless you only eat white rice and noodles.
And what about the quality of the protein? Can vegans get all the amino acids from only plants?
Plant protein seems to be counted inferior to animal protein. Some argue because plant protein does not contain all the essential amino acids, especially leucine (3). However, dr. John McDougall argues “a vegetarian diet based on any single one or combination of these unprocessed starches (e.g., rice, corn, potatoes, beans), with the addition of vegetables and fruits, supplies all the protein, amino acids, essential fats, minerals, and vitamins (with the exception of vitamin B12) necessary for excellent health.” (4)
Then the Medstar Research Institute replied, “The American Heart Association (AHA) believes that a vegetarian diet can be healthy, and we do not suggest that people need to eat animal protein exclusively for nutrients. We certainly agree with Dr. McDougall that a vegetarian diet based on the AHA guidelines of 5 to 6 servings of whole grains and five or more servings of vegetables and fruit would supply all of the amino acids necessary for health.” (5) This is certainly proof that vegans can get all the essential amino acids!