Vegan Health ArticlesThe Protein Debate
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 Written and submitted by: Anai Rhoads

Most dietary experts agree that a properly organised vegan diet is healthy. Ensuring an adequate nutritional balance is key to reducing a compromised intake of essential components necessary for a good Vegan lifestyle.

Vegan/Vegetarian categories are as follows:

  • Vegan: A Vegan is someone who does not consume dairy, meat, poultry, fish or honey. The reasons may vary from Vegan to Vegan on why they restrict their diets solely to plant sources. The main reason is the treatment of animals during food processing. Other reasons may include the killing of the animals, environment or a dietary change for health reasons.
  • Ovo vegetarian: An Ovo-vegetarian allows eggs into their diet. Eggs provide the necessary B-12 vitamin that lacks a presence in the Vegan diet. Ovo-vegetarians do not eat meat. Infants need 0.3 to 0.5 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12; children need 0.7 to 1.4 mcg; teens need 2.0 mcg [1]
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Much like Ovo-vegetarians, the Lacto-ovo vegetarian consumes eggs but includes dairy products into their diet. Lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat meat.
  • Lacto vegetarian: eats dairy products; no eggs or meat

Most Pediatric experts agree that the Lacto-Ovo vegetarian is the best choice when introducing Vegetarianism to a young child. Ideally, the optimum time to encourage this change is after the age of two. [2] . It is suggested that a regular vitamin and mineral regimen be continued meanwhile along with general advice from a qualified nutritionist.


Proteins are necessary for creating and maintaining hormones, tissues and sustaining growth in developing children and teens. There are 20 amino acids commonly found in both animal and plant proteins. There are generally considered to be eight amino acids that the body cannot make itself which need to be obtained from the food we eat:

  • Methionine
  • Lysine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine


The question brought up by many who do not understand the Vegan/Vegetarian diet is "If you don't eat meat or dairy, then where does your protein come from?". Contrary to popular misconception, protein can be found in several plant based foods such as suggested below:

  • Legumes: Peas, lentils, chickpeas and most beans.
  • Tofu: A great source of protein and calcium as well.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Peanuts, Sesame seeds, Hazel nuts, Almonds, Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds, and so on. Grains:
  • Barley, wheat, buckwheat, oats, pastas, breads, rice

Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) [4] of protein are as follows:

  • Infants: between 12 to 14 grams (g)
  • Children: between 16 to 46 g
  • Adolescents: need between 46 to 59 g

Although protein is a necessary part of everyone's diet, it can be detrimental when consumed in greater quantities. High protein diets can compromise our kidney function by causing our kidneys to work harder - releasing more creatinine in the process. In women especially, a high protein diet restricts calcium absorption which sets a path to osteoporosis.

[1] Suggested by the RDA

[2] Baby and Child Care - 7th Edition, Dr. Benjamin Spock

[3] The current recommendations by the National Academy of Science Food and Nutrition Board

[4] Suggested by the RDA

2002 Anai Rhoads. All Rights Reserved.

Anai Rhoads  

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.