Protein is an incredibly bio-available nutrient. We can get all the protein we want from plant sources without the potential health risks of eating meat, dairy and eggs. These include certain forms of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and strokes.
To prove this, let’s take the largest study ever done on vegan nutrient profiles. This study concludes that vegans on average, without supplements, get almost the same amount of protein as non-vegans. Below is a graph that summarises the protein intakes of different dietary patterns (source here). As you can see, not only do all diets get roughly the same amount but also get over the daily recommended value of 40-60g per day.
Why is this the case? Because all whole plant foods contain some protein and when we eat enough calories of a variety of these we can easily meet our protein needs. Protein deficiency usually only occurs in people with chronic under-eating, and even then, it is more likely that someone dies of fat deficiency in a state of starvation.
Can vegans be protein deficient?
It’s difficult to become protein deficient as a vegan if you’re eating enough calories for your age, sex and activity levels. As an example, let’s take a low protein food like rice. If we were to eat 2000 calories of pure white rice, for instance, we’d get 41 grams of protein (you can see the nutritional value of white rice in the figure below). This is already the recommended daily intake for sedentary women that eat 2000 calories per day.
Rice is not particularly high in protein, so if we add foods like vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, pasta and tofu, we’re going to get more than enough. Even in the extremely rare case that someone wants to get an amount of protein that is not achievable eating solely plants (which is probably not healthy anyway), plenty of affordable vegan protein powders are available worldwide.
There’s really no reason to consume animal products to get protein when we can easily and safely obtain the same from plants.