There has been a lot of buzz lately around “plant-based eating,” but what exactly does that mean? Although there is no official definition, it basically means eating most of your food from plants, like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Sounds healthy, right? But what about protein? Can you really get all the protein and nutrients your body needs from plants alone? The short answer – yes! Since there’s a lot of misinformation out there around plant-based proteins, we’ve debunked four common myths to set the record straight.
1. Aren’t plant-based diets low in protein? I thought I needed meat to reach my daily protein needs.
While protein deficiency is serious, it is actually pretty uncommon. If someone is eating enough calories, it’s rare they will be deficient in protein. Although many people in the United States think meat is the only way to get all of your protein needs, eating too much meat has been linked to heart disease, certain types of cancers, and a laundry list of other health conditions.
How much protein you need to eat each day is based on lots of factors like age and how active you are. If you are interested in knowing more about your specific needs, you can chat with a dietitian or Brook’s Experts.
2. I thought plant proteins were incomplete. Don’t I have to know about combining foods to get a complete protein on a plant-based diet?
The theory used to be that you needed to combine certain foods together in a meal to make what was called a “complete protein.” It turns out, that actually isn’t the case! When you are eating a variety of foods and getting enough calories, you should be getting all the different types of proteins your body needs throughout the day or week.
3. Aren’t plant-based diets low in vitamins and minerals?
Plant-based eaters actually get more vitamins compared to a standard American diet. But what about iron, zinc, calcium, and all the other nutrients in meat and dairy? All of these can be found in plants, too! Foods like nuts and beans are not only good sources of protein, but full of key vitamins and minerals as well. Aim for eating the rainbow and experimenting with new foods to cover your bases.
The B12 Exception: Plants can provide you with all the nutrition you need, with the exception of vitamin B-12. Although this nutrient is found in fermented and fortified foods, it’s important to make sure you are getting enough. If you choose to significantly cut back or completely stop eating animal products, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about taking a B-12 supplement.
4. What about kids?
Just like adults, kids (and growing babies!) can get all the protein they need from a plant-based diet. Some kid-friendly high protein foods are things like peanut butter, whole grains, beans, and soy milk.
Wondering what a plant-based Brook Healthy Plate looks like?
Still have more questions? Reach out to Brook’s Experts to learn more about plant-based eating and how to increase those foods in your diet.
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Reviewed by Emily Matson, MS, RDN
on March 6, 2020. Emily is a Registered Dietitian with her Master's degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA, and is one of our Brook Experts.