I don’t know about you, but since I’ve been vegetarian (1981), then vegan (1989), I have been repeatedly asked the question “Where do you get your protein?” Since I got asked this question a gazillion bunch of times, I read a lot about it. People were actually worried about me, thinking I might go into protein deficiency or something! I would end up reassuring my friends and family that yes, I really was confident that I was getting enough protein from my fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds [although I don't think everyone was convinced]. I was surprised, for some reason, to get asked the question again last year. I think I was surprised for two main reasons: 1) I hadn’t been asked that question in a long time and I hadn’t thought about it much at all, and 2) don’t people know yet that there is plenty of protein in plants? I really thought so, but apparently, I was wrong! It seems that the misinformation about protein is still abundant and still needs to be demonstrated to many people.
Not only is there enough protein in plant-based foods to maintain good health [and maybe even superb health], but eating an animal-based diet may even be harmful. I was reading The Starch Solution by McDougall recently, and he goes over the protein myth, as well as the damages that excess protein can do to a person’s body. T. Colin Campbell in his books The China Study and Whole [both books I recently read] also discuss the misinformation about protein, as well as the actual harm that can result from eating too much protein.
For example, McDougall reports in his book The Starch Solution that excess protein can be toxic and actually do damage to the liver, kidneys and bones. As he wrote “Excess protein can take its toll, even when we are strong and healthy. On average, we lose a quarter of our overall kidney function over 70 years of life just from consuming a diet high in animal protein” (p. 41). He also notes that if the liver is already compromised, excess protein speeds up the processes that can lead to organ failure. Additionally, “protein overload also harms the bones; each time we double our protein intake we increase the amount of calcium excreted in the urine by 50%, escalating our risk for osteoporosis and kidney stones” (p. 41). I remember, back in the 1980s when I was studying the issue a great deal, I remember being shocked by the fact that dairy and animal proteins can actually lead to osteoporosis! Doesn’t everyone know that more calcium leads to stronger bones, and thus the dairy industry’s push of dairy products??! Well, that’s one reason why people are so convinced that animal protein and dairy products are so ‘good’ [or even necessary] – the dairy and beef and other animal-based lobbies and their very successful campaigns. Yes, the food industry is very political, and the information that we are taught in schools about 'eating healthy' is wrong!
So, how much protein does the average person need every day? According to Dr. Campbell and others, somewhere around 15% of our daily calories [see Whole and The China Study] is a healthy amount of protein to strive for. Additionally, Dr. Campbell reports on many research studies, including his own, that demonstrate that when higher amounts of protein are eaten, more diseases [such as cancer, heart disease, etc.] occur. Dr. Doug Graham recommends a protein amount of 10% [see his book 80/10/10]. The “average” animal product [averaging the amount in beef, chicken, eggs, and fish] has 35% of protein [as a percentage of total calories], while the “average” plant contains 13% of protein. Thus, I have long known that my vegan, mostly raw foods diet contains plenty of protein. But, with all the money that the industries who are involved in growing animals for food [beef, dairy, eggs, fish] put into lobbying and media campaigns, it is still difficult for the average American to learn about how healthy a plant-based diet is.So, we need to continue educating ourselves and others and see if we can get this protein myth