Do Vegans Get Enough Protein?

Shane planning out the vegan burgers for an evening meal :)

Shane planning out the vegan burgers for an evening meal :)

As a nurse anesthetist who is also vegan, I feel like this question really hits home for me. Any choices that I make on behalf of my personal health almost have to be more than just reasonable or "a good idea". They need to be rooted in fact. 

I struggled with the protein myth for a long time.

Even after switching over to a plant-based diet, for several months I was pretty upset and stressed over making sure that I ate complete proteins with every meal. Following the advice of advertisements and anecdotal accounts of various family friends or acquaintances who'd "gone through the vegetarian phase", I wanted to make sure that I got enough protein so that I didn't do horrible things like stunt my growth or kill brain cells.

Then, I actually started reading. And dang it if simply opening a book didn't just blow all of those "anecdotal" opinions out of the water.

There are countless religions and cultures that have encouraged and practiced some form of vegetarianism for centuries. Certain sects of Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, the Church of Latter-Day Saints, Christianity (Garden of Eden), and Hinduism encourage plant-based eating in some form or another. Whether or not this applies to your faith is irrelevant: the point is that humans have been able to survive without copious amounts of animal protein for centuries. A great compilation of the world's longest living cultures today can be found in National Geographic adventurer and investigative journalist Dan Buettner's books on his research into Blue Zones. 


Moving forward to today's society, it is clear that certain deficiencies exist in the Standard American Diet. In my practice as a nurse anesthetist I'm being exposed to more obese patients that ever before (including children), and the diseases involved with a diet deficient in fiber and micronutrients, not protein.

For a detailed list and breakdown of protein myths, here is a great article by registered dietitian and ultra-endurance athlete Matthew Ruscigno.  

Countless athletes across the world have achieved ridiculous feats by eating a plant-based diet, with better results and no evidence of protein deficiencies. 

Rich Roll, Brendan Brazier, Scott Jurek, Fiona Oakes, and countless others are testament to this fact, and the list just keeps growing. Ask David Carter (the 300-pound Vegan) if he's worried about protein while he trains for the NFL. ;)

In short, if you're doubting that you can get protein from plants, you're in for a shock: 

There are 10 grams of protein in a bunch (340 grams) of spinach. 

Lentils, kale, and legumes also have tons of protein. Here's a great article for more plant-protein-containing foods. 

So where do you get your fiber and phytonutrients?