The other day I came across a t-shirt with a variation of “Keep Calm and Carry On” that read “Keep Calm Plants Have Protein.” I thought, this is perfect! An exhausted phrase AND an exhausted argument combined into one.
The first thing you get asked when you go vegetarian or vegan is “Where do you get your protein?” It is THE biggest concern. In American, we have an obsession with protein: it is touted as the most necessary nutrient, it’s associated with strength, masculinity, wealth, and luxury, and it has become synonymous with meat. There are many problems here. To begin, protein is necessary, yes, but not any more so that other macronutrients. In fact, carbohydrates are even more necessary because they are humans’ primary source of energy, followed by fat. Protein does not give us energy–you learn about that in 9th grade biology. Protein provides the building blocks for our cells. Eating more and more protein will not make you a superhero who can do par core off rooftops, or fly, or breakdance, or throw a car, as advertisements like to depict. In fact, it may actually be the reason why in developed countries so many people die early from preventable diseases…more on this in later posts.
Secondly, have you ever met someone who has a protein deficiency? Vitamin or mineral deficiencies are another topic all together, but just looking at protein, it is physically impossible to be protein deficient without being calorie deficient. In other words, as long as you’re eating enough food, you will get enough protein. Athletes and people trying to gain weight or muscle mass might need to consume more protein than the average person, but not exorbitant amounts as popularized in American culture.
Americans are consuming, on average, 80 to 90 grams of protein a day. Even the FDA, with its ties to the meat, egg, and dairy industries, recommends 50 grams of protein for the average person–30 grams three times a day would be 80% more protein than that! The World Health Organization–unbiased from American “Big Food”– recommends that protein make up only 5-10% of your daily intake of calories. That is not a lot of protein.
Where do you think the cows and pigs and chickens got their protein? Plants. Protein is not synonymous with meat. Protein is in everything–fruits, vegetables, grains–everything. Some plants have a higher amount of protein compared to others (beans, nuts, seeds), just like the ratios of any other nutrient, but the plant kingdom has ALL of the necessary nutrients for humans to live and thrive. They are the original source.
Plants surpass meat and other animal products in nutrition far beyond mere protein content however. Plants are all-encompassing for a healthy diet. They provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, water, antioxidants….the list goes on.
If you eat a diet of whole food plants you will get everything you need and nothing you don’t.
In addition to promoting your life, you will not be contributing to violence toward the lives of other sentient beings. Eating plants is a win-win!
There are many aspects to this protein misconception, especially when the people who are spreading the lies–and getting the masses to accept them as truths–are those in power. It is such a misunderstood issue that one blog post will not be enough to cover it, so look for future posts for more information. Thank you for reading! Now go eat plants and have a beautiful day!