Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein?

Can a vegetarian diet provide enough protein? The answer is yes, in most cases, as long as you are eating a well-balanced diet. If you eat enough calories to meet your daily energy needs, consume a moderate amount of dietary fat, include vitamin B-12, vitamin D and iron food sources, and have a reasonably varied diet, getting enough essential protein is generally not a problem, even without meat.

Almost all unrefined foods contain some protein, and often quite a lot. Potatoes are 11 percent protein, oranges eight percent, beans 26 percent, and tofu 34 percent. Vegetarian foods highest in overall protein content include:

  • Legumes or pulses (dried beans and peas)
  • Soy products of various kinds (tofu, tempeh, meatless "meats")
  • Eggs and dairy products
  • Some nuts

It was once believed that vegetarians had to carefully combine plant protein sources in each meal in order to obtain all nine essential amino acids. However, the human body can store essential amino acids during the day and combine them during that day as necessary, so in most cases it’s not necessary to make a conscious effort to combine protein sources. If you have concerns about this, seek advice from a medical professional.