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VegWeb Guide to the Protein & Calcium Myth

Protein and calcium come from hundreds of plant-based sources. Following are some facts to combat the fiction.

“Where do you get your protein?” is easily the most common question vegans are asked. Protein naturally occurs in hundreds of plant-based foods, such as beans, nuts, and grains. Two tablespoons of peanut butter, for example, has eight grams of protein; one cup of cooked lentils provides 18. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein for the average American man and woman are 56 grams and 46 grams, respectively; on average, Americans eat almost twice those amounts. As long as we consume enough calories from a variety of foods, protein needs are easily met. Elephants, cows, gorillas, horses, and hippopotamuses are all herbivores—and they get all the protein they need from plant-based foods.

The only way to build strong bones is to drink cow’s milk by the gallon, right? Despite the fact that certain industries have built entire ad campaigns around that very premise, the link between dairy consumption and bone strength has been scientifically disproved again and again.

Nuts and seeds, tofu, beans, leafy greens, dried fruit, and other myriad foods contain ample calcium, and many plant sources are actually better absorbed by the body than the kind found in cows' milk. Even if your veg diet isn't pristine, it's easy to get enough calcium from fortified vegan sources like cereals, juices, energy bars, and soymilk.

There’s a reason why roughly two-thirds of the world has difficulty digesting milk—cow’s milk is meant for baby cows to rapidly gain weight during its early stage of life. And who wants the growth hormones, antibiotics, pus, saturated fat, and cholesterol found in cow’s milk anyhow? If you’re worried about building better bones, forget the cow’s milk and pile your plate high with leafy greens and whole grains.