The Protein Question

The goal of this page is not (necessarily) to persuade, but to answer a question.

Where do I get my protein?  Plants.  Where don't I get it?  Animals.

The protein question is the go to question for anyone unfamiliar with the vegetarian/vegan diet.

Let me start by recreating a chart from "The China Study," by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD.  This chart compares the nutrient composition of 500 calories of plant and animal based foods.

"Animal-Based Foods" = equal parts beef, pork, chicken, and whole milk (500 total calories)
"Plant-Based Foods" = equal parts tomatoes, spinach, Lima beans, peas, and potatoes (500 total calories)

Plant-Based Foods
Animal-Based Foods
Cholesterol (mg)
Protein (g)
Fat (g)
Beta-carotene (mcg)
Dietary Fiber (g)
Vitamin C (mg)
Folate (mcg)
Vitamin E (mg_ATE)
Iron (mg)
Magnesium (mg)
Calcium (mg)

Striking, isn't it?

Our obsession with protein consumption is misguided (deliberately - there's a lot of money at steak) and positively linked to the diseases of affluence that are killing us at alarming rates.

To those relying on a meat based diet, I would encourage you to consider:
  • Where do you get your micro nutrients?
  • Where do you get your fiber?
  • How do you keep your cholesterol down?
  • How do you avoid consuming excess amounts of fat?
  • Not to mention:  Do you know where that meat came from?   
When was the last time someone in your family suffered from protein deficiency? When was the last time someone in your family suffered or died from heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, or cancer?  Examples of these diseases are rampant in our society.  The good news is, in many cases they can be slowed down, prevented, or reversed by a change in dietary habits.

But back to the topic.

The answer to the question of where I get my protein is:  everywhere.  Almost all foods contain a percentage of protein, and we only need around 10-20% of our total calories to come from protein.  Considering that 20% of a tomato's calories are from protein, I think we're in good shape.

Simply put:  If there is no calorie deficiency, there is no protein deficiency.

I eat whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and hemp.  Occasionally I eat tofu or tempeh or drink soy milk, but even without these I'm OK.

Protein is important, yes, but so are carbohydrates, fiber, and micro nutrients.

Eating a wide array of whole foods - vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts and seeds, provides the body with all of the essential amino acids (that's what we're looking for in the protein), a wide array of micro nutrients, loads of dietary fiber to keep your pipes clean and running smoothly, and these foods lack cholesterol (our body makes all the cholesterol we need, there's no benefit in consuming it, quite the contrary) and are naturally low in fat.

It's probably worth mentioning that I supplement vitamins B12 and D.  If you're going vegan or vegetarian, you should look into doing the same.

Many people much more qualified than I have written scores on the subject.  Here are a few links:

Sample menus to show how easy it is to meet protein needs:

Protein requirements and problems with too much protein:

More charts on protein requirements and sources:

damn it Jim, I'm not a doctor.   this information comes from my studies, experience, and god given good sense.


  1. As you know, I adore you. That said, I eat meat and probably always will. What I should do is eat less. However when I do eat meat I know exactly where it comes from. The Vata in me loves his salty meat! By the way, I love what you are doing! Great blog and way to take the "bull by the horns" with your food journey. Can't wait to see where it takes you.

  2. Mac! I guess there's some Vata in me too (are we talking Ayurveda here? I didn't know you were an ayurveda guy...) because when I miss meat, it's the charcuterie that calls to me. So you eat that meat, darlin,' and have a salami sandwich for me - different strokes for different folks.
    Adoring you right back, and happy to now know about the Rooted Spoon...

  3. I am soooooo glad you posted this!! Now I can tell my husband to back off and let me alone with my Veggie ways! HA!