If you’re vegan for any length of time, you may hear this common question: “Where do you get your protein?” Well, according to science, plants will do you just fine. The long-standing myth about the necessity of meat for building muscle has been disproven as a new study found plant-based proteins benefit muscle health the same as animal protein.
The study, published last week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that the type of protein consumed — be it plant or animal — didn’t matter to muscle mass or strength. Only the amount; those subjects who consumed the least amount of protein had the lowest levels of muscle mass, but type of protein had no impact on muscoskeletal health.
The University of Massachusetts Lowell researchers compared the health records of close to 3,000 adult men and women between the ages of 19 and 72, including detailed dietary questionnaires the subjects completed. Dietary habits, particularly the sources of protein (meat, eggs, fish, chicken, or vegetarian sources like legumes, nuts, or seeds), were compared with lean muscle mass, bone mineral density, and quadriceps strength, “all measures that are important for fitness, health, and better functioning, especially as we get older,” notes Health.com.
The conclusion was that increased protein intake from any clean source is directly connected to healthier, stronger muscles, an important consideration as we age and begin to lose muscle mass.
Lead study author Kelsey Mangano, PhD, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, told Health.com, “As long as a person is exceeding the recommended daily allowance for protein, no matter the source in their diet, they can improve their muscle health.”
Of course, plant-based proteins have numerous other benefits over animal products, including the added benefit of fiber, zero cholesterol or saturated fats, and whether legume, bean, grain, nut, or seed, plants are also loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Protein is also found in most vegetables from broccoli and kale to parsley and zucchini. Plant proteins are significantly less damaging to the environment than meat, which also comes under scrutiny over issues of animal abuse in the massive livestock industry.
Earlier this year the largest group of nutritionists found a vegan diet to be appropriate at all stages of life.