Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The protein myth

AlterNet has a short article today by Kathy Freston about the "protein myth". For most vegans, the question "But where do you get your protein?" always seems a bit perplexing as it comes up again and again (and again). It's as if by eschewing that ol' ribeye steak or yogurt cup, vegans face some sort of inevitable and well-known nutritional deficiency purportedly common to their ilk, even though most of the folks like me who live in North America live in a world where most diseases have to do with excessive consumption.

Freston points out that only 10 percent of most people's daily caloric intake needs to be protein-derived and that it's almost impossible to not meet this requirement by simply eating a varied plant-based diet. She discusses Dr. Dean Ornish's article that links common cancers, heart disease and other illnesses to high protein -- and especially animal-derived -- foods (she's right that his article is well-worth the read) . She also mentions T. Colin Campbell's famous The China Study, which also links cancer to excessive animal protein consumption.

The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) has a well-researched section on its website about daily protein requirements and vegan sources of protein. It also addresses the still widely-perpetuated myth (kick-started -- and long-since repudiated -- by France Moore Lappé in her famous work Diet for a Small Planet) of the supposed need to combine different types of protein to get a "complete" protein. PCRM also has an informative article on protein for vegans
and breaks down protein requirements by body weight (as well as throwing in a couple of protein-rich recipes to boot). It's almost embarrassing how ridiculously easy it is to get the minimum amount of protein you need day to day.


J said...

I hate that this is most often the question that I get about being veg. Nobody asks any reasonable questions such as 'where do you 'get your B-12?' They ask about protein and calcium and I have to fight the urge to tell them that their excessive consumption of protein and dairy products has much to do with their current health ailments.

There is such a lack of understanding out there about the veg community. It's like fundamentalist Christians (or any fundamentalist religion), since the 'extremists' are the ones you have the most contact with, since they are out there wearing their values on their sleeves, people assume that we are all crazy, sickly extremists. Damn stereotypes.

ERock said...

This is a *great* link for protein debunking:


Lisa Viger said...

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard, "Where do you get your protein?" ...