Plant Protein Preferable

Plant Protein Preferable
4.51 (90.22%) 45 votes

Since foods are a package deal, Dr. Walter Willet, the Chair of Harvard’s nutrition department, recommends we emphasize plant sources of protein, rather than animal sources.


The dietary recommendations of countries that rely on their health departments to formulate them, rather than their agriculture departments, more closely parallel the recommendations of academics, such as Walter Willet, the chair of Harvard’s nutrition department, who, in his “Essentials of healthy eating: a guide,” talks about picking the best “protein packages,” recognizing that food is a package deal. And so, one of his top three recommendations is we should emphasize plant sources of protein, rather than animal sources.

See, to the metabolic systems engaged in protein production and repair, it doesn’t matter whether amino acids come from animal or plant protein.

However, protein is not consumed in isolation. Instead, it is packaged with a host of other nutrients—the “baggage” I refer to in previous videos. The quality and amounts of fats, carbohydrates, sodium, and other nutrients in the ‘‘protein package’’ may influence long-term health. For example, results from the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study suggest that eating more protein from beans, nuts, seeds, and the like—while cutting back on refined carbohydrates like white flour—reduces the risk of heart disease.

So, the bottom line? Go with plants. Eating a plant-based diet is healthiest.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Global Crop Diversity Trust via Flickr


The dietary recommendations of countries that rely on their health departments to formulate them, rather than their agriculture departments, more closely parallel the recommendations of academics, such as Walter Willet, the chair of Harvard’s nutrition department, who, in his “Essentials of healthy eating: a guide,” talks about picking the best “protein packages,” recognizing that food is a package deal. And so, one of his top three recommendations is we should emphasize plant sources of protein, rather than animal sources.

See, to the metabolic systems engaged in protein production and repair, it doesn’t matter whether amino acids come from animal or plant protein.

However, protein is not consumed in isolation. Instead, it is packaged with a host of other nutrients—the “baggage” I refer to in previous videos. The quality and amounts of fats, carbohydrates, sodium, and other nutrients in the ‘‘protein package’’ may influence long-term health. For example, results from the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study suggest that eating more protein from beans, nuts, seeds, and the like—while cutting back on refined carbohydrates like white flour—reduces the risk of heart disease.

So, the bottom line? Go with plants. Eating a plant-based diet is healthiest.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Global Crop Diversity Trust via Flickr


Doctor's Note

Be sure to check out all my other videos on dietary guidelines and heart disease. If you’re worried about the gassiness of beans, check out my blog post Beans and Gas: Clearing the air

For more context, also check out my associated blog posts: Dietary Guideline Graphics: From the Food Pyramid to My Plate, Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, and PCRM’s Power PlateHow to Enhance Mineral AbsorptionPreventing and Treating Kidney Failure With DietCholesterol Lowering in a Nut Shell98% of American Diets Potassium DeficientDo Eden Beans Have Too Much Iodine? and What Is the Healthiest Meat?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

97 responses to “Plant Protein Preferable

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    1. Hey, i have a question. What specifically is it in meat and dairy that changes the body’s pH? I often hear that it’s the animal protein, but this video makes it sound as if there is no difference in protein derived from plants or from animals.

      1. Hey Alex,
        Good question! You are right that the amino acids (building blocks of protein) in animal protein are the same as the amino acids in vegetable protein. However, as noted in the video the proteins in food do not appear in isolation. In the animal form the proteins are surrounded by saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, etc. In the vegetable form the protein is surrounded by phytonutrients, fiber, etc. In addition, omnivores tend to consume proteins in excess, thereby, stressing the kidneys to process all the excess Nitrogen that the body does not need. All these metabolic processes affect our bodies acid-base balance. Our SAD (standard American diet) is very acid forming due to the excess protein, salt, sugar, and lack of fiber and antioxidants. This state of acidosis is linked to many chronic diseases. See the following abstract Dr G has a good explanation here

        1. Hey KJGrier, Thanks for the thorough answer. Haha, i never actually noticed before that ‘amino acid’ contains the word ‘acid’. So would excess protein in any form lead to a state of acidosis, or would the fibre and phytonutrients that comes along with plant proteins prevent this? Take spinach for example: would it be acid or alkaline forming? Most of its calories come from protein, but it is a dark leafy green(which according to the link is alkaline forming)

          I’m asking because i’m eating a high protein vegan diet and I want to know if I should start limiting my protein. My diet is not intentionally high in protein, it is just that the things I like to eat(quinoa, nooch, etc) happen to be high in protein.

        2. Hi KJGrier: You have probably seen the results of a recent study showing that those who wish to add muscle (by exercising) show substantial benefit by eating more protein. I do like to exercise, and I am pushing 60 and want to maintain my muscles mass. I am primarily vegan, but do eat chicken or fish about once a week as well as a little dairy. My question is whether a plant derived protein that is high in purines, such as pea protein, is hard on the kidneys, or can cause uric acid/kidney stone issues. Dr. Gregor’s videos on plant protein make it seem like there is absolutely no downside to eating plant protein.

          I add about 20 grams of plant based protein to a smoothie. I have had two kidney stones which I believe may have formed due to adding brewer’s yeast, which i gave up a couple of hears ago. But given my alleged sensitivity, perhaps I should be wary of high purine plant proteins? Thanks.

          1. Hi Magnus,
            Lots of good questions! The preferred way to get your protein is intact foods. That is the safest way to consume “amino acids” because it is naturally balanced with fibers and other phytonutrients. Pea protein is an isolated protein. Even though there is a study demonstrating pea protein is superior to whey protein in building muscle. , I do not believe it is necessary. None of these studies on protein supplements compare to eating WFPB. You can accomplish the same thing, maybe more, just eating legumes as whole foods. Check out this competitive Vegan Bodybuilder. He does great with just eating WFPB with no additional supplements .

    2. Iv’e read that according to Dr. Dean Ornish that heart disease is reversible and saw the photos of
      arteries that apparently have opened up after eating the plant based diet. But my cardiologist says that calcium deposits in my arteries will not clear out on any diet and I should continue with statin drugs to stabilize the plaque formations. Is my cardiologist correct or am I missing something.

      1. Hi Sandy,

        I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. Thank you so much for your question.

        Statin drugs are used to reduce cholesterol, not to stabilize plaque formation. Therefore, you should use the highest quality diet (whole food, plant-based) to lower your cholesterol. If you and your physician decide that it is best to still maintain your dose of statin drugs, that is fine, but once your cholesterol levels come down to normal through diet and lifestyle changes, you could have the discussion then with your doctor about taking you off the statins. A strict, whole food, plant-based diet can do more for your arteries than your cardiologist seems to understand.

        I hope this helps!

    3. Re Choline nutritional daily requirements
      I understand this nutritional essential was only discovered in 1998. And choline comes from red meat and liver.
      I am trying to be a vegetarian and still obtain adequate nutrition.
      What are the daily requirements for a 83 year old male Caucasin ?
      Which foods and in what quantities need to be eaten to obtain the required dosage?
      Are supplements required?
      Same info re protein requirements as I understand for an 83 year old man it is double the adult need.
      Yhank you

      1. All available evidence is that eating a varied, unprocessed, WFPB diet will provide all the choline and protein needed by everyone. Available evidence suggests that any artificial increase in either choline or protein will either have no benefit or will be detrimental to health.

    4. Thank you for allowing me to post this question on plant protein. My trainer recommended that I should try whey protein. I immediately nixed that. I do not want to buy packed protein mixes.
      I made a protein mixture of grounded-flax seed, split pea powder, chia seed.
      What more can I add to this mixture.

      1. Even though all available evidence clearly supports the USDA and the World Health Organization recommendations of a not-to-exceed 5% of calories from protein, you could do what Popeye does: simply eat spinach. It has 51% of calories from protein (beef is “only” 42%).

  1. So doc, can you direct me to any of your videos that rate the top protein rich veggies? You are changing lives – mine and my kids, especially! Thank you.

    1. Hello Cocowillie,

      When I tell people I don’t eat animal products the first thing i hear is “where do you get your protein?”. It is in fact, a myth, that plant foods are not complete proteins and in reality, all fruits and vegetables contain complete proteins so there is no need to compliment 2 foods for a full amino acid profile. If you eat when your hungry, energy expenditures satisfy protein intake. The American Dietetic Association acknowledges this fact as well “Plant protein can meet protein requirements when a variety of plant foods is consumed and energy needs are met. Research indicates that an assortment of plant foods eaten over the course of a day can provide all essential amino acids and ensure adequate
      nitrogen retention and use in healthy adults; thus, complementary proteins do not need to be consumed
      at the same meal”
      Plant foods such as spinach contain more of a percentage of protein than beef. For example, spinach is 51% protein and mushrooms are 35% while beef is 36% protein.

      Furthermore, Regarding our actual requirements for protein. For the average human being, male or female, the minimum has been set to 20 grams per day. This is according to Dr. William Rose of the University of Illinois back in 1942. Dr. John McDougall states that our body only uses about 10 grams of protein per day since we don’t actually store protein but use it as our body needs The World Health Organization states “adequate levels of protein intake are recommended to be 0.45 grams of protein per kilogram of ideal body weight per day”. For me weighing at 150 pounds, that comes out to about 30 grams of protein per day. Note that the World Health Organization states this as a “safe” level, meaning it is not a minimum. Bottom line is, our body doesn’t need a large amount of protein, and since all plant foods contain more than adequate protein quality and levels, to focus on eating a “protein” is not necessary. If you eat when your hungry and till your full on a plant based diet, you are getting MORE than enough protein. If anything, in today’s society we should be worried about getting too much protein since too much protein gets broken down to uric acid and strains our kidneys.
      Let me know if you have any other questions, such as omega 3 requirements or any other question of the sorts.

      On another topic, check out this video on cancer prevention using whole plant foods!

      1. This whole “complete protein” business is confusing. Yes, all plant foods contain all essential amino acids. But most are not in the perfect proportion necessary for us to build our own human protein. In my experience, the two amino acids to watch are lysine and methionine. They are usually the limiting amino acids. Whole grains are usually low in lysine, legumes are usually low in methionine. Plus, there are a few nonessential amino acids that are not present in plant foods, so in that sense plant protein is indeed incomplete. In my experience 2000 calories of plant foods supplies 63-73 g of protein. Not bad.

        1. Grains and legumes together supply a complete protein. It used to be believed that you had to eat them at the same time in order to get the complete benefit, but that has been proven false. As long as you eat a diet of grains and legumes, your body will get all of the proteins that it needs. Non essential proteins are not needed in the diet, hence being called “non essential.”

        2. “Yes, all plant foods contain all essential amino acids” That’s false.

          The term “complete protein” refers to amino acids, the building blocks of protein. There are 22 different amino acids that can form a protein, and nine that the body can’t produce on its own. These are called essential amino acids—we need to eat them because we can’t make them ourselves. In order to be considered “complete,” a protein must contain all nine of these essential amino acids in roughly equal amounts.

          1. baggman744: I was with you until you said “in roughly equal amounts.” I don’t know why you would think we need them in equal amounts? What we need is the 9 amino acids in the amounts that our bodies need.

            The following page shows both how much of each amino acid humans need AND what amounts are in whole plant foods. As shown, plant foods have us covered when it comes to protein.
            “Vegetables have plenty of protein, and they’re complete proteins as well”

            A quote that is to the point: “So when we compare the actual requirements to what plant foods actually contain, we find that basic plant foods aren’t incomplete at all. They have every essential amino acid, in excess of what we need. It might not surprise you that beans are a complete protein by themselves, but even carrots are a complete protein. Tomatoes are a complete protein. Celery is a complete protein. Even iceberg lettuce is a complete protein.”

            1. I probably read the “equal” amounts part somewhere; but thanks for the link, I’ll read it. My best guess was a bodybuilder site, as they/we tend to believe more is better, as in extra amino acids won’t hurt, but not enough could impede performance, etc. I’m constantly adjusting my diet, as I have a propensity to lose muscle weight when I don’t pay attention. So I’m always looking for calorie dense foods.

              1. baggman744: re: always looking for calorie dense foods. I wish I was in that boat. :-)

                On the topic of body building, I thought I would mention that the link I gave you above has a section on body builders/building muscle. Also, you may know all of the info below already, but just in case you would find it helpful (websites and books to get ideas or inspiration), I thought I would share these bits:

                (article from meatout mondays)
                Vegan Bodybuilders Dominate Texas Competition

                The Plant Built ( team rolled into this year’s drug-free, steroid-free Naturally Fit Super Show competition in Austin, TX, and walked away with more trophies than even they could carry.

                The Plant Built team of 15 vegan bodybuilders competed in seven divisions, taking first place in all but two. They also took several 2nd and 3rd place wins.

                For More Info:

                When Robert Cheeke started in 2002, being the only vegan athlete he knew of, he may not have imagined that the website would quickly grow to have thousands of members. Robert says, “We’re discovering new vegan athletes all the time, from professional and elite levels… to weekend warriors and everyone in between.”

                For More Info:
                There was that other guy who just did a world record in weight lifting. “Congratulations to Strongman Patrik Baboumian who yesterday took a ten metre walk carrying more than half a tonne on his shoulders, more than anyone has ever done before. After smashing the world record the Strongman let out a roar of ‘Vegan Power’…” For more info:
                another article on the same guy:
                Here’s another site that I like:

                I found this story on the above site: “Pat Reeves has set a new world powerlifting record at the WDFPA World Single Lift Championships. The 66 year old lifter, who has been vegan for 46 years, lifted 94 kg to set a record for the under 50.5kg weight class while competing in France in June 2012. The lift was more than 1.85 times her bodyweight, which is exceptional for her division. Pat is now officially the oldest competing weightlifter in Europe.”

                Story of Mac Denzig, winner of season six of The Ultimate Fighter

                Book: Vegan Bodybuilding And Fitness by Robert Cheeke

                For those who want a more thorough dietary guide, I suggest Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life by Brendan Brazier. His book is exclusively about vegan sports nutrition and contains a variety of great tasting recipes along with a 12-week daily meal plan.
                (from someone on Amazon)

                More about Thrive:
                Thrive Energy Cookbook
                Created by two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion, Brendan Brazier, Thrive Energy Cookbook dives into Brendan’s philosophy on plant-based nutrition, showcasing 150 easy, health-enhancing recipes.

                An expert on how diet affects performance and how not to waste energy, Brazier explores how foods in their natural state maximizes energy and health, lowers body fat, improves sleep, and peaks conditioning and physical performance.

                Thrive Energy Cookbook includes the use of leafy greens, hemp seeds, quinoa, brown rice, and nuts as staples in an alkaline-forming, plant protein-packed diet regime.

                In addition to being a best selling author, Brendan Brazier is a former professional Ironman triathlete. He is the creator of the ZoN Thrive Fitness Program and the award winning, plant-based VEGA product line.

                (from Meetout Mondays)
                Plant-Powered Athlete: Griff Whalen [NFL Player]
                His teammates say he has the most enviable body on the team. They say he consumes an average of 6,000 calories and 200 grams of protein a day. They also say, he does it all by eating plants!

                In a recent interview on, Indianapolis Colts’ wide receiver Griff Whalen, talks about his vegan ways.

                “I feel a lot lighter, faster, quicker on the field. There isn’t that heavy feeling, that groggy feeling after I eat,” says Whalen.

                Hooray for another plant-powered athlete for us to cheer on. w00t! w00t!

                Read the full article on :
                Check out fighter Mac Danzig:

                1. Wow, thank you kindly for taking the time to pass on all this info!! I assure you, it is very much appreciated. Guess I owe you a veggie smoothie ;-)

      2. “Plant foods such as spinach contain more of a percentage of protein than beef. For example, spinach is 51% protein and mushrooms are 35% while beef is 36% protein.”

        OK, help me with this one. My understanding is that 51% of calories in spinach come from protein, but spinach is actually less than 10% protein. Is this accurate? If so, then isn’t it misleading to present spinach as being 51% protein? It just sets us up to be exposed as frauds.

          1. if not a percentage of weight, it could be percentage of volume…like 1 cup of spinach contains…etc. So you have percent of calories, percent of weight, or percent of volume–it all depends what is being measured.

  2. Thanks Doc. There is a daily argument in our house about the amount of almond and soy milk I drink. I do not drink cow’s milk unless I run out of the other stuff. Any concerns about the amount of almond or soy?

    Keep up the good fight!

    1. Hello again Cocowillie,

      I am actually not a doctor, just someone who researches nutrition obsessively and tries to stay informed!

      To answer your question, almond milk is fine, but be weary of soy milk if you plan on drinking it with fruits or veggies. Check out this video for details.

      Also, soymilk, specifically for young girls is another thing to be cautious of. check out this video for details.

      All in all, I would say almond milk is the safest choice of the 2.

      1. So you’re saying drinking soy milk with fruits, blocks the absorption of phytonutrients from fruits? I’ve been loading my oatmeal (with soy milk) with fruits, in the hope that I could absorb the most of the powerful nutrients. Should I eat fruits separately?

      2. The second video also suggests that soy milk may promote health and reduce the risk for future breast cancer by delaying pubertal breast development.

        1. I often wonder, with so much soy being genetically engineered to be herbicide resistant and sell more health damaging chemicals in the world, if the studies are really promoting better health, or the earning potential to Monsanto, Dow, and other biotech-pesticide companies?
          I ingest soy products sparingly, especially after consuming 1/2 cup of organic soy milk, and having my first severe case of either indigestion or acid reflux. Don’t know what it was, but I really felt ill. And it happened just days apart on two different “milks”, one made from organic soy (by a company that regularly samples and tests its product for GMO’s), and the other from a non organic quinoa milk producer.
          Other containers bought earlier from both companies showed no adverse side effects but I’m now looking for another calcium-magnesium source to add to my oatmeal in the morning.
          Life would be so much easier if we had mandatory labeling and the right to know in North America if the foods we buy or ingest are made from GMO’s. (Both products claimed they were free of GMO’s), but they still could be contaminated from pollen or drift from Roundup, one of the most prolific pesticides in the air, soils, and waters, including rainwater in the USA. And side effects of ingesting glyphosate also appear a lot like GERD.

    1. This is sickening to me
      “The Dukan Diet starts with a short, sharp Attack phase where you eat nothing but protein – just meat, fish, eggs and (unlike Atkins) no-fat or low-fat dairy products. This is the kick-start that gives you the initial, rapid weight loss (up to three kilograms in just five days), and sets the tone for the other stages of the plan. Stay on the Attack phase for one to 10 days depending on how much weight you have to lose.

      The problem here is that they are not shedding fat weight but water weight.
      This is from Dr. McDougall, a plant based advocate
      “The initial weight loss is rapid, and therefore very rewarding, for the desperate dieter. Most of this loss, however, is water loss, rather than fat loss. With little carbohydrate in the diet the body resorts to using its glycogen stores of glucose. Glycogen, stored in the liver and muscles, can meet the average person’s glucose needs for about 12 to 18 hours. With each gram of glycogen is stored 2.7 grams of water. The average body stores 300 grams of glycogen. Depletion of the body’s glycogen would result in an almost overnight weight loss of 1110 grams (37 ounces or over 3 pounds). The ketones also cause a strong diuretic effect on the kidneys, resulting in losses of large amounts of fluid. The carbohydrate ceiling for weight loss may be as low as 15 grams, depending on the individual. This is only 60 calories of carbohydrate, which means 1/3 of a baked potato, 1/3 cup of rice, or one orange daily could be your limit of carbohydrate intake in order to remain in sufficient ketosis to suppress your appetite.”
      Read the article Dr. McDougall posted and you will see it elaborates on why the high protein diet is so harmful. Link below

      1. I feel sorry for people’s bodies if they are on the dukan diet.

        Logic is clearly out the window when it comes to weight loss diet desperation.

      2. I did the high protein diet we called Atkins in the 70s. Lost weight really fast, but knew nothing of Ketosis then. I was young and failed to stay on it. Because most people can’t maintain it, they/we don’t cause ourselves irreparable harm. Many of the ‘sudden onset kidney failures later in life, I read, can be traced to a high protein diet over a life time. There is often no warning. I really don’t want to take that chance….It’s a no for me!

    2. The Dukan Diet appears to be like the European version of the Atkins Diet. The UK National Health Service just highlighted that the Dukan Diet is the fad diet to avoid this holiday season, citing the British Dietetic Association’s conclusion that it is “ineffective and without scientific basis.” I wrote a whole book about these these types of diets, Carbophobia: The Scary Truth Behind America’s Low Carb Craze, available free, full-text at

  3. I’ve been hearing more and more about the fact that legumes and grains have lectins and saponins in them, and that they are anti-nutritive or harmful (mostly hearing this from the paleo diet crowd).

    I was wondering if you could shed some light on what the current understanding is on that topic, or if you could point me in the direction of where I could learn more. Thanks!

  4. Dr G

    If you were forced against the wall with an assailant armed with a chicken drumstick and he demanded an answer to the following question, what would you say? The (difficult) question is “About how many chemicals / chemical compounds does the average person consume in his diet daily?”
    I’m trying to gain information to strengthen my suggestions to friends to investigate plant-based diets as an alternative remedy to healing ills.
    Thanks for all I’ve learned from your articles in the past.

    1. It depends what that person is eating. Fish is the most contaminated and I would place poultry at second most contaminated.

      Contamination is only one issue, as endotoxins, high intake of arachadonic acid, saturated fat, cholesterol, and increased IGF-1 are all significant issues with chicken as well.

  5. In a first aid class we were told high fever is deadly mostly because of protein in the blood becoming denatured. Is there any research indicating different temperatures for animal or plant protein for this to happen?
    Maybe this is irrelevant, just wondering :)

  6. > The World Health Organization states “adequate levels of protein intake
    are recommended to be 0.45 grams of protein per kilogram of ideal body
    weight per day”.

    Actually, the recommendation of the WHO is:

    “0.83 g/kg per day of protein with a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid
    score value of 1.0.”

    referenced in the document you pointed to, but didn’t actually read:

    This recommendation gives and adequate intake for 97.5% of the population (median 0.66 plus 2 standard deviations of about 0.09 each).

  7. Celebrate your Independence from the Standard American Diet (SAD) by enjoying this health-filled chili.

    Make Your Own Fireworks Red, White, and Blue Chili

    – 1 cup dried kidney beans
    – 1 cup dried navy beans
    – 1 cup dried black beans
    – 6 cups water
    – 1 white onion, chopped
    – 1 green bell pepper
    – 1 cup white stuffing mushrooms, sliced
    – 1 apple, chopped
    – ½ jar strained tomatoes
    – ½ jar salsa
    – 1 cup water
    – 2 tbsp chili powder
    – 1 tbsp cilantro
    – 1 tsp marjoram
    – 1 tsp oregano
    – 1 tsp basil
    – ¼ tsp chipotle chili powder
    – 3 cloves garlic, minced
    – 3 garlic scapes, chopped
    – 3 green onions, chopped
    – Black pepper and sea salt

    In a large pot, cook dried beans in 6 cups water until tender, about 1 ½ hours. Strain excess water. Mince garlic and set aside. In a dry, uncovered skillet, cook white onion, mushrooms, green pepper, and apple until tender. Add to beans with remainder of ingredients. Stir to combine, heat thoroughly and let sit for 10 minutes.

    Bookmark my new Plant-Based Emporium Facebook page for all my latest recipes.

    ~Complements of lovestobevegan

  8. Hello Dr. Greger
    First of all I recently became vegan because of you. My youtube recommended one of your lecture video over a month go and I’ve been learning and researching non-stop ever since.
    So I was wondering about Legumes and inflammation in the body. There was a post I read about how legumes cause inflammation in the body (it was a paleo blog..I figured I should educate myself on all sides) Have you in come across any findings or research that would indicate anything at all like this?
    Thank you,

  9. I wonder, what plant sources of fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2 (for bone health) could you recommend? Some people are not able to convert plant-based beta-carotene to real vitamin A.

    1. You might find another approach to more acceptable. The McDougall Diet for the Desperate see his website for the article he wrote in his December 2002 newsletter. If going on a whole food based processed oil free diet with adequate B12 intake doesn’t result in improvement it is a good alternative. He explains a somewhat less restrictive approach as well. You have to be very careful of any processed foods and I would definitely avoid GMO products especially corn and soy. Depending on your symptoms he has also written articles relating to diarrheal disorders(November 2002) and constipation(September 2002). Keep working with your physician(s) and hopefully you will be able to find relief even if you never identify the underlying disorder.

  10. But be carefull … most brown rice proteins contain hetals you don’t want in your system so choose for organic non hexan extracted sprouded brown rice protein. I use a nutrient dense superfood vegan protein meal powder that contains all 9 amino accids and chlorella spirulina maca mangosteen acai and 15 more in one blend only to stay healthy and fit .

    1. Peter, would you mind sharing which vegan powder you use that doesn’t pose a concern for heavy metal content? I cannot seem to find one and I am growing frustrated. Thank you for your time!!

      1. The protein i use is fed with revered osmosis water and contains max 10ppm on these metals ,but if you take regular protein from brown rice that is watered with normal water you will get more toxins from the water in your protein ( chemicals pesticides pharma products etc etc ) the rice is working as a spounge.

  11. This is mainly my dietary guideline: I count plant protein. It’s simple and easy. You don’t have to think about other factors seeing as plant protein comes with vitamins, phytochemicals, minerals and are not associated with cholesterol, saturated fat, etc.

  12. good day Dr Greger. I apologise for a slightly lengthy post and if this question has been asked before. I recently contacted a dietician that helped me lose weight as a teenager to ask her to assist me with creating a vegan diet. She is well respected and helped me drop weight quite easily when I was young. Her exact response was as follows “My experience with weight loss programmes on a vegan diet is not good at all. In fact I have so far persuaded every vegan to eat at the very least cheese for the time they want to spend on the weight loss regime. A vegan diet is always high in Carbohydrate and low in good quality protein. Protein stimulates metabolic rate. I anticipate your metabolic rate to be very low because of your weight. Fat has a very low metabolic rate!
    If you want to go the vegan way I am afraid I will not be able to help you. It would just be a waste of time and money, or result in a very unbalanced diet, which I am not prepared to work out for you.
    Please also consider that children need a high, good quality protein (animal origin preferably) diet in order to grow up into healthy adults. Children need to build masses of muscle for which protein is needed! Please discuss this with your paediatrician.” So my question is… is it easier to lose weight on a non-plant based diet due to the specific meat protein composition? Or is there a clever way to combine plant proteins to be as, or even more effective than meat proteins? Totally confused…. Michelle

    1. taikozfan: From her own words, your previous dietician is not up to date on even basic nutrition information. A great deal of what was written to you is simply wrong, including her understanding or expression of what children need. Because of that, I think you are better off without her/him. Rather than explain all the ways that she is wrong, I’ll stick to the positive. The good news is that there are great resources for helping you lose weight in the most healthy and safe way possible – the whole plant food way.

      Because your questions are specifically about protein, I’ll start by giving you my favorite protein reference information. If you work your way through these articles, you will be greatly relieved concerning your protein worries. For the first link, there is a section on the page that talks about the myth of the need to worry about protein combining. But I recommend going through the whole article.

      Then, to fill in more details, check out Dr. McDougall’s article from December 2003.
      You might also check out the January 2004 newsletter article, Protein Overload.

      Next are some resources that provide the conceptual information you need in order to know how to lose weight. The first is a free lecture on You Tube from Doug Lisle, Ph.D. called, How To Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind

      While you have to purchase it, I also *highly* recommend that you watch the talk from Jeff Novick called Calorie Density: How to eat more, weigh less, and live longer.

      Now on to some practical resources that will help you put the above conceptual information into practice.

      >>>> Check out Jeff Novick’s other videos, including the Fast Food series for a tasty, affordable and fast recipes. Also, on-line and free is a YouTube series of recipes/cooking shows called something like Chef AJ and The Dietician. I know that Chef AJ will not steer you wrong in terms of weight loss and providing accurate nutrition information.

      >>>> Check out the free 21 Day Kickstart program from PCRM. They hold your hand through 3 weeks of eating. Even if you didn’t want to stick to the entire program day by day, the recipes and active support and question forum could be really helpful.

      >>>> You might also consider getting some cookbooks which promote low-fat whole plant food based eating. Chef Del lost 200 pounds eating the food he shows in his latest cookbook:

      Another favorite of mine is: Happy Herbivore, Light And Lean

      I have plenty more cookbook suggestions, but I’m worried I’ve already overwhelmed you. So, I’ll stop here. One thing to keep in mind on the cookbook suggestions, there are many to choose from and lots of recipe options. If you don’t like the first ones you try, keep looking.

      Finally, I recommend taking a look at Dr. Greger’s Nutrition Recommendations so you don’t miss some important vitamins like B12. (And so that you don’t end up buying more supplements than you really need.)

      taikozfan, you CAN do this! Please review the references above and post back to let us know how you are doing or if you have any more questions. I hope this helps.

    2. taikozfan: One more bit I realized I should have included:

      Here is part of an answer that Dr. Forrester gave to someone else in a similar situation that I thought might help you:

      “Dr. McDougall’s website is a valuable resource especially his newsletter article, The Fat Vegan, which was published in his December 2008 newsletter. You might also watch Dr. McDougall’s free online lecture, The Starch Solution, which goes along way to freeing folks from their misunderstanding about carbohydrates. His website also comes with many recipes from the unsung heroine of the McDougall team… his wife Mary. You can reasonably expect to lose 1/2 to 2# per week depending on your diet’s calorie density and exercise. … Truth in advertising… I have the pleasure of working with Dr. McDougall, Jeff Novick and Doug Lisle but honestly after 35 years as a Family Medicine doctor the science is in and just keeps reinforcing the best path. Good luck.”

      1. Hi Thea, Thank you very much for your detailed response. I appreciate all the time you put into sharing the best information with me. I think you are right. This dietician does not mirror the information that I am learning about and you are right – I don’t feel like trying to ‘convert’ or argue my point of view either. I know she means well. My biggest fear is that I will not be able to do this on my own. I have previously followed a raw food diet ( for 1.5 years) several years ago and about a year ago I competed a juice fast (6 weeks) but it always seems to plateaux after about a 10 kg/ 20 pound weight loss. I never seem to lose enough weight to motivate me not to give up. ( Yes, I know I am responsible or my own health.) I have looked into coaching from the Eat to Live ( Dr Fuhrman) site but $1000 for 3 months! It includes an online assessment from a coach, (30 mins) and then a coaching call (weekly for 20 mins). What can you cover in 20 mins? Unfortunately it is definitely too much for me to afford right now. I joined the Eat to Live membership site where they have a member’s forum but I don’t think the forum works for me. I end up making posts where few respond. It seems to me that the membership is not ideal for me. I will definitely investigate the links you have posted. Thanks again. Michelle

        1. Michelle: Thank you for your nice reply.

          Based on what you wrote, I think your best bet in terms of action to take would be the 21 Day Kickstart program. If you need/want a structured program, the 21 Day Kickstart program works great: and it is completely free. And they do have the helpful forum. I took the liberty of looking up the webpage for you to sign up.

          They start a new program at the beginning of every month. So, you missed October. But it would be great to sign up now. Then you will have plenty of time to prepare. For example, when I did it, they sent out a grocery list early on. So, you don’t want to wait until November 1 to signup. You would want ot sign up now. If interested: You can start looking into it sooner by getting (maybe from your library?) the 21 Day Kickstart book. (If you feel that waiting until November 1 is too long.)

          And of course, you can watch that video from Dr. Lisle now. I highly recommend that no matter what.

          Let us know how it goes!

  13. hi. this is sort of a long question. it is about sources of protein.
    i am a 50 year old male, 188 cm and about 70 kg. slim but not skinny. more than average level of activity and get about 2400 calories per day for stable weight. i do have a problem with gaining muscle mass – it is slow and hard to keep. years ago i found that when i increased my protein intake i ‘ felt better ‘. i do have a history of borderline ( non iron deficient ) anemia. generally i settled for carbs 55%, fat 25%, and protein 20% of caloric intake. so this amounts to about 120 gm of protein a day. fine. over the years i have moved to a more vegan diet but am not quite there yet. right now on a regular day the diet gives me about 20% of my protein from animal sources – dairy yogourt and cheese, the only animal flesh is about once or twice a week some herbavoric fish ( mostly sardines ). very rarely any other animal flesh, and some eggs from the occasional egg noodles or egg bread. i do eat some processed junk food, and do use t.v.p. and soy flour for a protein boost. i love beans, whole grain wheat breads, fruits and greens and veggies.
    so the question is how do i get rid of the animal protein from my diet? i find that the ratio of fibre to protein in a vegan diet a bit ‘taxing’ and voluminous. and i am concerned about too much soy protein in the diet. i seem to be ok with gluten, but it must be cooked, adding raw gluten to my breakfast cereal mix does not seem to be a good idea. any suggestions?

    1. Hi there!

      I remember when I first started on my plant-based journey and was very concerned about my protein intake. Prior to being vegan/Whole Food Plant-Based (WFPB) I was a chicken breast guzzling, 6 day a week in the gym guy obsessed with building muscle. I now feel great and build muscle without even worrying about my protein intake. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the grams, percentages and cm’s that we lose sight of the quality of our food. I’m not saying this is you, I am just sharing from personal experience.

      I think it is great you are taking steps in a more vegan direction. My journey was step by step. I began a vegetarian that still consumed dairy, fish and eggs. Then, I only consumed eggs and dairy, then dairy, and eventually I was a full vegan. I would say this process took me about 4 years because I had to feel comfortable with the food I was eating and how I was preparing it. This site is one of my favorites for some great plant-based recipes. You can also check out Forks Over Knives for some great recipes as well. While on the subject of cooking, I wouldn’t be too concerned with soy as long as you are sticking to 3-5 servings a day.

      Since I am not sure what your workout routine looks like exactly I cannot estimate the rate in which you would gain lean muscle mass. Just remember that when you workout you are actually destroying muscle fiber in order build it back bigger and stronger when you recover. I know plant-based foods can be filling due to their fiber, but this natural pairing creates a wonderful synergistic health effect in order to rid your body of toxins that were produced during the workout while at the same time building your muscle better than it was before. I highly recommend this article on where vegetarians get their protein from. it gives great insight on how much protein we actually need. I will also point out that on occasion I use an organic plant-based protein powder when I am in a hurry, but I mainly add whole foods to my meals, like hemp seeds to my oat meal and smoothies, to give a little more nutrient density.

      I wish you health and happiness my friend. I hope this information helps! :-)

      1. James: Really great post! It was nice of you to spend so much time sharing both your story and giving ideas for healthy eating. I also like the websites you listed for recipe ideas.

        I wanted to share with both you and ptrjnf my favorite sources for understanding protein needs. After working my way through these two articles, I had such a better understanding of how to get protein needs covered. It takes away all the fear and myths regarding protein: (check out December 2003 for McDougall’s site, “A Brief History of Protein: Passion, Social Bigotry, Rats, and Enlightenment”. Also April 2007, “When Friends Ask: Where do you get your protein?”)

        That information combined with personal experiences like James’ can be a great help to people like ptrjnf trying to transition.

  14. Hello, I came across this website that claims that chocho, an ecuadorian legume, has higher protein content than soy and doesn´t contain phytoestrogens! Is this true? I´ve done some research and just found a couple of articles that say the same thing.

    1. Kenny: I don’t know if it is true or not, but let’s suppose for a minute that both points are true: 1) chocho has more protein than soy, 2) choco does not have phytoestrogens. Neither point makes chocho a better choice than soy.

      In other words, we don’t need more protein than we get from normal everyday plants that we already consume. This website explains why if you are interested:

      And we don’t need to avoid phytoestrogens. In fact, phytoestrogens appear to be good for us on a variety of fronts (including breast cancer patients).

  15. I’m looking for the video about the boy who is missing an amino acid and can’t eat vegan without getting sick. I’m hoping that his solution will work for me, too, because I have the same problem.

      1. Thea,
        Thanks for posting the video. I’ll try the amino acids Dr. G named one by one, to see if one of them works. My problem shows up quickly: I get a low fever within a few hours of the vegan meal, so I should find out fairly soon.

        1. VegEater: Best of luck! Some ideas for you:

          1) Dr. Greger mentions some of the non-essential amino acids, but not all of them. I got the sense that the video is just providing an example list. So, you may need to test more than just what is mentioned in the video?

          2) I would think that (if available to you) a doctor would be able to help you more quickly and safely? identify what which amino acid(s) are the problem if that is indeed your problem. It would hopefully take away the guess work???

          3) If you are experiencing a problem very soon after consuming a veg meal, could the problem be more of an allergy type thing instead? I’m not a doctor nor an expert by any means, but it sounds to me like your body is more having a reaction to something you are eating as opposed to something your meal is missing. I really have no idea if that is right or not. But it might give you another avenue of investigation if your amino acid theory does not pan out.

          Again, I wish you a ton of luck. It sounds like this is very serious and needs to be figured out.

          1. Great ideas. I’ll be seeing just the right doctor to bring this up with in a couple of months. Don’t think it’s an allergic reaction to the foods because if I eat the veg foods + meat/fish/egg, nothing happens.
            After this discussion, I tried taking Acetyl-L-Carnitine + Lipoic Acid (recommended for MS anyway) and was thrilled to find that they totally stopped a serious problem of blood flow being cut off to legs after just a few steps of vigorous exercise. Did not stop the fever from eating meatless meals.
            Thanks very much for your help.

  16. I’ve now vegan (eliminated egg whites) and was very surprised to find that my fever problem has gone away. I can’t explain it, but I’m thrilled.
    We’re also switching our dogs to Vdog, in hopes that the absence of meat will help them resist cancer. They love it so far.

    1. VegEater: Congrats on conquering your fever problem. That’s pretty cool.
      FYI: My Great Dane has been on v-dog for 6 years. He also loves it. And now he is a healthy 12 year old. (Which is very rare for Great Danes, who usually only live about 8-10 years.) Best of luck to your doggies!

  17. Hello. Can you tell me if Pea Protein Powder is healthy? I want to build some muscle and cut down on chicken, so I’m looking for extra protein. Thanks.

    1. Hi Misuar- Have you checked out today’s (April 25) video on protein? (Here it is: Protein combining myth). Between the video and all the great discussion you’ll see that protein supplements are generally unnecessary for those eating a WFPB diet. That said, you’ll see in the discussion that some folks are using plant-based supplements and they have some suggestions for good products. Hope that helps!

  18. Plant based diets can be good. Especially for the physically lazy who
    have developed high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or
    obesity. They are predominately in ill health due to a combination of:
    1) Low physical activity (less than 30 min of vigorous exercise daily),
    2) Polluted environmental influences and 3) Poor nutritional intake. The
    plant based diet may be temporarily effective for CORRECTING poor health from these
    factors, but for the growing population of responsibly physically active individuals
    that require higher protein diets, a strictly plant based diet will only starve their
    muscles, bones and tendons leading to injury, tissue damage and
    disease. As an expert in the health field, you need to be intelligent
    enough to not group the entire population of humans into one narrow
    category with the same biological needs. Protein from lean organic free-range meats
    and organic dairy both which are free of anti-biotic and hormone influence is essential for a well balanced body and a long
    disease-free life. (BTW- Pork products should not be considered food in anyone’s book.) You also need to emphasize the consumption of raw
    organic plant-based produce from QUALITY sources and the need for mineral
    supplementation as today’s plant based diets lack essential nutrients
    due to poor soil conditions and pollutants from herbicide, pesticides,
    and GMO mutations. My opinion is you still have a lot to learn before
    you can be deemed an expert in nutritional health. Knowledge is not
    enough. Wisdom is what man must seek.

  19. Hello,
    My question is regarding the safety hemp protein powder. Is there anything I should be considered about in using hemp protein powder? It seems to be the best way to get more vegan protein as it is a whole food and the ingredient list is often just hemp, are there any compounds or contaminants in hemp that when taken in high amounts are associated with negative effects?

  20. Kindly provide specific plant food sources highest in complete protein per 100g. For example, specific foods like tempeh, black beans, red lentils, are these highest in complete protein, or are there plant sources even higher that one can substitute in place of burgers, steak, chicken and fish?
    Many thanks in advance!

  21. DR Greger, !988 I had hysterectomy with one Ovary intact Since 2016 i started having Hypertension waking up one morning with my first headache.i tried a lot of natural remedies but the same yo yo effect. my doctor prescribed Amlodipine Besylate 10mg and aspirin 81 mg.Just now reading 132/83 I do not take any treatment for the hysterectomy. Could this missing organ be cause of hbp? I am a plant based eater for 16 years only use very little pink processed foods.What can i do ,i do not want to be on medications Thank you millicent

  22. Hello Dr. Greger,
    Although I eat enough natural plant based proteins, sometimes my schedule is a bit hectic. I recently bought a plant based protein powder by Sun Warrior to mix in with my soy milk and blueberries. Are you a fan of plant based protein powders…specifically that brand mentioned above? Thank you doctor.

  23. Hi Keith,

    I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. Thank you so much for your question.

    As Dr. Greger always says when people ask him if a food is healthy…”compared to what?”

    Is a plant-based protein powder better than a dairy-based protein powder? Better than chicken or beef or bacon for protein? The answer is perhaps, yes.

    However, is a protein powder with pea and hemp proteins better than eating peas and hemp seeds? What about beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains? The answer is probably, no.

    Therefore, with everything we put in our bodies each day, we must decide if we can go a step higher on the “healthfulness” spectrum. If you can find a way to include more whole, plant foods into your diet, that is great. If you can’t find a way, or at least can’t at the moment, than at least you understand that you have the opportunity to include healthier foods.

    I hope this helps to answer your question. I wish you all the best!

  24. Hello, we are both over sixty and went mostly vegan 3 years ago. I have been buying ‘ mindful chef meals in the U.K. which are whole food plant based meals delivered as whole ingredients to cook. They are balanced meals , about 450-600 calories each. We have a couple of pieces of seeded, high fibre no wheat bread with peanut butter and fruit spread for breakfasts, one of these meals plus fruit and plant yougurt for lunch and a handful of nuts for snack and then a soup and more fruit for dinner, which is all we are hungry for at our age. But I started doing the numbers and understood we were only getting about 30 g of protein a day which does not seem enough. So I replaced the soup with a fruit and veg smoothie with a scoop of plant protein powder, another 19 g per day. Even this seems low as we are both 80-90 Kgs in weight and tall. How do you keep calories and food volume down but protein levels up on a plant based diet. If I overeat I put on weight very easily.

    1. Hello Susan,

      While protein is rarely a concern for those on a plant-based diet, as we age our requirements do increase and your intake is quite low. I would add in high protein foods, such as lentils, tofu, and beans. I understand that you stated you put on weight easily, but you may just get a short term bump in weight that plateaus due to water, not actually putting on fat.

      I hope this helps,
      Dr. Matt, Health Support

  25. Hi
    I have polycystic kidney disease/stage 3

    Would love to reverse the effects by eating better. My issues is that I do NOT like vegetables. I have tried, but I don’t like them. What is an alternative for me.

  26. This is what the paper with Dr. Walter Willet actually said “aim for at least half of protein from plants—beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Choose fish, eggs, poultry for most of the rest, with small amounts of red meat and dairy making up the balance. Aim for two servings of fish per week.”

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