Protein

Meeting Protein Needs on a Vegan Diet: The Calorie Connection

People often ask why any adult would need a diet providing more than 5 to 6 percent of calories from protein. I had several questions about this after I posted my recent article about protein in vegan diets. After all, human breast milk is around 6 percent protein and it supports health during the fastest period of growth of the entire lifecycle. How could adults need a more protein dense diet than an infant?  
Babies certainly have high protein needs for their size. They require almost 0.7 grams of protein for every […]

By |2011-03-13T13:52:07-04:00March 13th, 2011|Tags: , , |41 Comments

Vegan Food Guide, Protein, and New Book

Lots of stuff packed into this post. First, I’ve updated my food guide to create separate groups for legumes and nuts as a way to ensure adequate protein intake.
I’ve been thinking about protein a lot lately for a number of reasons. The main one is that I’ve been working on a book on vegan nutrition with dietitian Jack Norris. It’s called Vegan for Life, and will be published this summer by Da Capo Press.
We worked […]

By |2011-01-24T11:05:24-04:00January 24th, 2011|Tags: , |69 Comments

Tryptophan, Milk and Depression

People who abandon plant-based diets often say that they suffered from depression as vegans. One common belief is that vegans can’t get adequate tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Tryptophan is needed to make the neurotransmitter serotonin and low levels of serotonin are linked to depression. In the book The Vegetarian Myth (which I plan to review here in the next few weeks), author Lierre Keith notes that she suffered from severe depression as a vegan partly because “there are no good plant sources of tryptophan.”

While it’s true that meat is higher in tryptophan than plants, a well-balanced vegan diet is […]

By |2010-09-02T10:13:22-04:00September 2nd, 2010|Tags: , , , |33 Comments

Vegan Calcium Needs: Working Through the Myths

Quite a few popular vegan websites and books make the claim that vegans don’t need as much calcium as omnivores. The theory dates to some interesting research from the early 1990s which found that hip fracture rates among different countries increased as per capita protein intake went up.

The observations were backed by decades of clinical studies, too. As far back as the 1920s, nutritionists were showing that feeding meat to subjects caused them to excrete more calcium in their urine. Theoretically, this is because protein has an acidifying effect on the blood. Calcium is leached from […]

By |2010-05-21T10:53:00-04:00May 21st, 2010|Tags: , , |23 Comments

Protein for Vegans: Old Myths Die Hard

I’ve talked with three different reporters this past month, all with questions about vegetarian diets. All three asked, of course, which nutrients require special attention in vegetarian diets. And each expressed surprise that I didn’t mention protein. They also asked about soy—and whether it was true that it’s the only plant food that is a “complete protein”—ie, the only one that contains all 9 of the essential amino acids.

The answer is no. All plant foods that contain protein—which would be all grains, beans, nuts, seeds and vegetables—provide all 9 of the essential amino acids. So they are all […]

By |2008-12-13T11:12:00-04:00December 13th, 2008|Tags: , |3 Comments