We’re just about at the end of the month that, at least in some circles, has come to be known as Veganuary. I read recently that something like 750,000 people around the world rang in 2020 by pledging to abstain from eating animal products for the month.
If you go vegan, even for 31 days, will your body get enough protein? As a longtime vegetarian (but not a vegan), I’m particularly curious about getting adequate amounts of protein without eating meat.
Dr. Prescott Prescribes
Protein serves as an essential building block for muscles, bones, hair and skin. It also makes up the enzymes that power countless essential processes in our bodies.
Experts generally recommend that people get about 7 grams of protein each day per 20 pounds of body weight. That means about 50 grams for someone who weighs 140 pounds and 70 grams for a 200-pounder. (Studies suggest slightly larger amounts might be beneficial to especially active folks.)
Meat and fish serve as the primary source of protein in most of our diets. For instance, a 4-ounce burger or serving of salmon delivers about 20 grams of protein.
Dairy and eggs also provide lots of protein: an egg contains 6 grams, a cup of milk 7 or 8, and a cup of plain yogurt up to 13. Like meat and fish, dairy and eggs are animal proteins, so they are “complete,” which means they consist of all of the amino acids essential for body functioning.
Vegans have to be more creative, as soy is the only plant that carries complete proteins. (Four ounces of firm tofu has about 9 grams.) But it’s certainly doable.
By combining different forms of complementary proteins — say, an almond butter sandwich on whole-grain bread — you’ll get 13 grams of complete protein.
With a bit of attention and effort, a vegan diet can supply all the protein your body needs. And for temporary vegans, even a protein-negligent month likely wouldn’t lead to any health issues.
Of course, you needn’t go vegan or vegetarian to eat healthily. I prefer to follow the advice of author Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”