Breaking the 3 Biggest Myths of the Vegan Diet

The first question I get asked often when discussing a complete plant-based diet is, “Where do you get your protein from?” Protein has become widely recognized as a miracle macronutrient that, apparently, is difficult to acquire in effective doses. However, this is far from accurate. Let’s clear up three of the three most common misconceptions about plant protein.

1 Myth: The more protein, the better

Humans do indeed need protein because it is one of the three macronutrients that we need to get from our diet. Proteins are involved in virtually all structural and functional mechanisms in the body. All our cells contain proteins and they are the building blocks of muscles, hair, nails, organs, skin, tendons, ligaments, enzymes, membranes, certain hormones, hemoglobin, antibodies, enzymes and more. However, just because something is critical doesn’t mean more is better. In fact, when it comes to protein, consuming too much of what we need can promote disease.

The recommended daily protein intake by the United States Department of Agriculture is 0.7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for adults over 19 years of age. For a 130 pound female, that means 47 grams of protein per day. For a 170 pound man, 62 grams is recommended. Many people consume about 20 to 30 percent of their calories as protein, which is equivalent to 90 to 135 grams of protein on a 1,800 calorie diet (typical female intake) and 125 to 188 grams of protein on a diet. of 2,500 calories (average male intake). This is equivalent to two to three times more than USDA recommendations. Much of this excess protein comes from animal sources, which can be particularly damaging. Excess protein strains the kidneys, contributes to gout, and is associated with an increased risk of many chronic diseases.

2 Myth: “Complete proteins” are hard to find

The other common misconception is that animal products are the best source of protein. One of the big reasons this myth has been perpetuated is that amino acids – the building blocks of protein – are put together in a way in animal feed that looks more like what humans actually use. However, we now know that this is of no consequence. When you consume a protein, it is broken down by digestion into its separate amino acid constituents and is pooled in the blood for later use. When the body needs to build a protein for an enzyme or to repair muscle tissue, it collects the necessary amino acids and string them together in the order appropriate for what it is creating. This happens regardless of whether you are consuming animal or plant protein.

If you eat a variety of whole plants, you will easily get all of the essential amino acids needed to maintain a healthy metabolism and thrive. Plus, plant protein is perfectly packed with an abundance of phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all of which are essential for optimal health and disease prevention. On the contrary, animal protein is enveloped in unhealthy saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. Animal products are also devoid of phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber, and contain very few vitamins and minerals.

3 Myth: The more active you are, the more protein you need

Humans need about 10 percent of calories from protein. Virtually all whole plant 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 thought to need higher amounts of protein to maintain muscle size and optimize performance. However, athletes have increased overall calorie needs, so when they increase their intake of whole plant foods, they automatically meet their increased need for all macronutrients, including protein.

When it comes to protein, it’s not about getting as much as we can, but rather getting the right amount. Whole plant foods, as supplied in nature, provide the ideal amount of protein necessary for the growth, maintenance and functioning of metabolic processes.

To learn more about plant-based diets and health, read:
Is milk bad for you? The truth about dairy
The 5 healthiest cooking oils for vegan diets
New research explains link between meat and cancer

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