Friday, September 18, 2009

Protein and the Vegetarian Diet

The most commonly voiced concern regarding vegetarianism is that of protein. Many think it is difficult or impossible to obtain the protein needed from a meatless diet. On the contrary, it is actually rather simple to meet the FDA’s recommended allowance of protein. In fact, some carnivores consume too much protein in their diets, which in extreme excess can lead to kidney problems and osteoporosis.

According to studies referenced by the American Dietetic Association, typical vegetarian diets “meet and exceed [FDA] requirements”.

Males over 25 years of age require 63 grams, and females require 50 grams. Another way to determine the requisite amount is to calculate .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For instance, a 150-pound person is about 68 kilograms, X .8 = 54 grams of protein.

The United Kingdom recommends slightly less: 55 grams for adult men and 45 grams for women.

One debated issue is that of the essential amino acids. It had been commonly thought that one must ingest each of the eight essential amino acids, and protein “combining” be practiced in order to ensure these needs were met. An example of this is to eat beans and brown rice to produce a “complete protein”. This theory has been recently debunked, and is no longer heeded by many vegetarians. Instead, a variety of protein sources should be consumed, as a varied diet will maximize the body’s ability to obtain not only adequate protein, but vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as well.

Here is a list of foods high in protein (all protein counts from

Spirulina, ½ ounce: 8 grams
Soybeans, ½ cup cooked: 16 grams
Chickpeas, ½ cup cooked: 8 grams
Brown Rice, 1 cup, cooked: 5 grams
Milk, 1%, 1 cup: 8 grams
Oikos Yogurt, Plain, 5.3 oz.: 15 grams
Cottage Cheese, 1%, ½ cup: 14 grams
Tempeh, ½ cup: 16 grams
Tofu, ½ cup: 10 grams
Lentils, ½ cup, cooked: 9 grams
Black or kidney beans, ½ cup, cooked: 8 grams
Quinoa, 1 cup cooked: 8 grams
Peas, ½ cup, canned: 4 grams
Almonds, ¼ cup: 8 grams
Bulgur, 1 cup, cooked: 6 grams
Whole Wheat Bread, 1 slice: 4 grams
Soy milk, 1 cup (Silk): 6 grams
Sunflower seeds, ¼ cup: 6 grams
Egg, one large: 6 grams
Parmesan, 1 Tablespoon: 2 grams
Boca Burger, original vegan: 18 grams

A good resource with a vegan spin on the issue can be found at The Vegetarian Resource Group website.

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