MYTH: Animal protein is necessary for health

The World Health Organisation, on their latest report about protein published in 2007, considers to be safe for the global population, a level of protein intake of 0,8 grams per kilo of body weight, when this body weight is within the acceptable range (1). This value corresponds approximately to 10% of the daily caloric needs.

So, do vegans get enough protein? The largest study in history that compared the nutrient profiles of around 30,000 non-vegetarians, 20,000 vegetarians, and 5,000 vegans, flexitarians, and pescatarians showed very similar protein daily intakes in all groups (between 70-75g) (2). This means that everyone, including vegans had much more protein than they needed every day, considering the WHO safety requirements. In fact, any combination of plant based foods provide between 30 to 40g (12-16%) of protein for each 1000 calories consumed, well beyond the daily requirements. This includes all the essential amino acids (3).

When it comes to protein content in foods, consider the following: greens contain around 50% protein, legumes about 20%, whole grains and nuts between 8% and 15%. The muscular gorillas eat mainly fruits and leaves, some stems, seeds and a few insects (mostly along with the other foods, as they don’t clean them before eating). All that muscle without having even tasted a piece of chicken.

Protein deficiency is practically impossible, unless there is a severe caloric restriction in the diet. Do you really know anyone with protein deficiency? If it only was for protein needs, we could live basically on sweet potato, as we’ll see on the next post.

2-N S Rizzo, K Jaceldo-Siegl, J Sabate, G E Fraser. Nutrient profiles of vegetarian and nonvegetarian dietary patterns. J Acad Nutr Diet 2013 113(12):1610 – 1619.
3-J McDougall. Plant foods have a complete amino acid composition. Circulation. 2002 Jun 25;105(25):e197; author reply e197.

4 thoughts on “MYTH: Animal protein is necessary for health

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  1. Hi Aitor, thank you very much for your blog, I have been enjoying your posts. I have a question regarding this one though: do you know is there any difference between the protein that we get from animal products and the one we get from plants? My worry is, I’m trying to build up muscle, and in my local gym they mention quite often the importance of eating lots of chicken.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, I’m glad you like my blog. Thank you for your comments and a great question! The difference between animal and plant protein is the content and quantity of amino acids. Chicken, for example, is rich in the high sulphur amino acid methionine, which has been link in studies to cancer growth. Also, all animal protein, not just chicken’s, have been shown in studies to increase the production in our livers of IGF1 (Insuline Growth Factor 1) a growth hormone that promotes cancer cell development (I’ll present these facts in future posts). No matter how much you train, if you eat legumes regularly (beans, chick peas, lentils, soy etc…), which are in average around 20% protein, you’ll never be short of protein. You can type vegan body builders in you tube and you’ll find lots of videos that may be of your interest. Ask your colleagues from gym if they know Patrick Baboumian, the strongest man in the world, who happens to be vegan. I hope this answers your question. Aitor

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello,

    Very interesting conversation, basically animal products are not as good as we have believed, we need to welcome the vegan diet, and remove alcohol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erm… Friday night drinks will be a bit difficult to give up I am afraid Neus, but that video of the strongest man in the world is quite impressive, so I am happy to give vegetal protein a go. Animal welfare is my main reason for going vegan, so this works for me.
      Thanks for the detailed response Aitor! Very informative, it looks like I could be getting more that I bargained for by going vegan.

      Liked by 1 person

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