Vegetarian Protein - is there enough, and is it complete?

by Webmaster,

It is perhaps one of the biggest fallacies in nutrition that there is not enough vegetarian protein, and that animal protein is needed for good health. The truth is, we can survive on the former, and plant foods alone can provide enough of both essential and non-essential amino acids, thereby satisfying our protein needs.

There are many sources of protein for vegetarians. Whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and vegetables all contain protein.

In fact, all the essential amino acids we need are synthesized by plants, not animals.

As long as a varied and balanced vegetarian diet containing various types of plant foods are consumed, and your calorie intake is sufficient, your protein requirement would be more than met. This has been validated by studies conducted at Harvard University, as well as in Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, UK and the US.

In other words, a diet with sufficient amount of calories in it would also have enough protein. Dr Richard Schulze also champions this fact.

Mainstream medical and health organizations, in the past couple of decades, have separately studied the vegetarian diet and found it to be more than sufficient in meeting the nutritional needs for people in all stages of life, even infants, children, teenagers, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

The abstract of the "Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian diets", June 2003, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, states: "It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."

"[...] This position paper reviews the current scientific data related to key nutrients for vegetarians, including protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, vitamin A, n-3 fatty acids and iodine. A vegetarian, including vegan, diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients."

Click here to read the full abstract as well as some of my thoughts on vegetarian nutrition.

Is vegetarian protein 'complete'?

Note that, according to some experts, plant foods do not contain complete proteins. For those who do not eat animal foods, it is thus necessary to combine groups of different sources of plant or vegetarian protein in each meal to meet your protein needs. Some advocate that you need to eat from at least two of these three groups at every meal - grains; beans and legumes; nuts and seeds.

To other experts, however, this is nonsense, and absolutely not necessary. Dr Richard Schulze, for example, categorically states in one of his books that this theory is "simply hogwash" and has been "scientifically disproved".

So, is vegetarian protein 'complete', and is there the need for 'protein combining' in the same meal? To play it safe, when I consume vegetarian meals, I follow that advice anyway. It's not difficult, really. Whole grains form the main staple, with beans, legumes, nuts or seeds being part of one of the side dishes.

Still concerned that vegetarian protein is insufficient?

Are you still worried that there is not enough vegetarian protein in a vegetarian diet? There is some evidence that protein intake by vegetarians is only slightly lower than in meat-eaters. The proteins available in vegetarian diets can in fact even meet the protein requirements of athletes and bodybuilders.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had in fact stated that, on average, American vegetarians consume 150% of their protein needs, while meat-eaters take in twice as much as what they need.

Thus, if there is a problem with modern day diets, it is way too much protein, and certainly not the lack of it! So, relax.

Good sources of vegetarian protein

There are 8 known essential amino acids which cannot be made by the human body. It is said that the only vegetarian sources of all these essential amino acids are amaranth, buckwheat, chia seed, hempseed, quinoa and soy.

There is no need, however, to consume any of these foods to meet your full protein needs, as a variety of the other vegetarian sources of the essential amino acids would do the trick.

Some good vegetarian protein sources include:

  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Peas
  • Seeds
  • Soy

    For lacto-vegetarians, ovo-vegetarians and / or lacto-ovo-vegetarians, eggs and dairy products like milk and cheese are also good sources of protein, although one should be careful not to overdose on animal protein.

    To read a discussion on other areas of concern with regard to possible nutritional deficiencies of vegetarian diets, click here.

    You may also want to read about some of my thoughts on vegetarian nutrition.

    Indeed, there are countless sources of vegetarian protein. Which is your favorite source of vegetarian protein?

    Read More: More on Vegetarianism | Understanding Nutrition and its Importance | Nutrition Health Articles - Foods, Diets, Supplements, Nutrients and more | Information on some Herbs | Favorite Herbs, Herbals Formulas and Foods | Natural Health Supplements - What to Consider | Home Page | Site Search

    Being a vegetarian does not have to be difficult. In fact, it should be simple, healthful and fun. Meals can be delicious, too. Click here for a step-by-step guide to a vegetarian lifestyle, which will help you to make a simple transition to a healthier diet.

    Also, if you wish to learn how to lose weight quickly and healthily with simple, cheap and easy vegetarian meal plans, click here.

    And if you love Chinese food or wish to learn healthy, delicious, natural, gluten-free Chinese vegetarian recipes which you can easily prepare at home, click here.

    Vegetarian-related Pages

    Introduction | What is a Vegetarian? | What Do Vegetarians Eat? | Different Types of Vegetarians | Pros & Cons | Why People Become Vegetarians - the reasons | Advantages of Vegetarian Diet Choices | Health Benefits of Vegetarian Diet Consumption | Vegetarian Diet Disadvantage - a discussion | Becoming a Vegetarian - does it suit humans better? | Being Vegetarian | Going Vegetarian Really isn't That Difficult | Challenges of Being a Vegetarian | How to Become a Vegetarian | Tips to Become Vegetarian | Nutrition Issues | Thoughts on Vegetarian Nutrition - is it adequate and complete? | Vegetarian Diet Health Concerns - are there nutritional deficiencies? | Vegetarian Protein - is there enough, and is it complete? | High Protein Vegetarian Diet - some thoughts | Planning a Diet | What's a Healthy Vegetarian Diet? | Achieving a Balanced Vegetarian Diet | Formulating a Vegetarian Diet Plan | Vegetarian Food Pyramid - details & discussion | Vegetarian Daily Diet - some ideas | A Right Diet for Vegetarians - are you on one? | More Information | Vegetarian Statistics and Studies | Vegetarian Quotes - for fun, information & inspiration | Vegetarian Websites, Books, Videos & Resources | List of some Famous Vegetarians

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