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Protein Questions and Answers: Myths and Truths

Robyn Openshaw - Updated: March 15, 2024 - - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

natural high-protein foods

Protein is a much-talked about topic that most people don’t really understand.

Here are some common protein questions and answers to help clear some things up for you:

In this article:

  1. What about “perfect” or “complete proteins”? 
  2. Should I be worried about getting enough protein? 
  3. What if I feel better eating more protein? 
  4. What about “eating right for my blood type”? 
  5. One more benefit to not over-consuming protein 

Question: What About “Perfect” or “Complete Proteins”? Are They the Best?

Answer: No, not at all. A “perfect” protein just means it very closely matches human flesh. In fact, proteins from plants, where the body builds from the “raw materials” of amino acids (protein’s building blocks) yield more durable muscle mass. They aren’t “perfect” proteins, but that doesn’t mean they are inferior. Quite the opposite.

Eating the flesh of animals does “bulk you up” more quickly. It also breaks down more quickly.

And eating the amount of animal protein that bulks up a bodybuilder also dramatically accelerates aging and increases disease risk.

(For a moment, stop looking at a bodybuilder or fitness competitor’s body, 99% of them who overload on animal proteins and whey protein powders. Look at their FACES. They look OLD.)

[Related: The Carnivore Diet: 11 Bizarre Claims of the All-Meat Diet]

Question: Should I be worried about getting enough protein?

Answer: Again, no. The World Health Organization says 5% protein is adequate!

Even an exclusively plant-based diet averages about 10%, especially if it contains decent amounts of greens, legumes, and nuts/seeds.

Virtually no one in the world has a protein deficiency. In fact, the average American eats 1.5 times more protein than we need. We do, however, have deficiencies in many nutrients found in PLANTS.

What does the average American eat, relative to the 5% “adequate protein” recommended by the most legitimized health organization in the world? Fully 20% animal protein! This is more than any culture in the history of the world has ever eaten.

And, the China Study (Cornell/Oxford collaboration) found, by tracking 6,500 people in China, that eating 20% animal protein is highly correlated to cancer, heart disease, and other risks.

On average, here’s how much protein plant foods contain:

  • Fruits = 5 percent
  • Vegetables = 20-50 percent
  • Sprouts, nuts, beans, grains, seeds = 10-25 percent

So you get plenty of protein from plants. When you eat these proteins raw, they’re undamaged by heat and therefore more usable by your body, too.

Greens are highest in protein of the vegetables, so they are ideal for building and repair in the body. We have a protein excess in the Western diet, not a protein deficiency.

A strong woman flexing her muscles while holding a broccoli in a kitchen.
"Greens are highest in protein of the vegetables, so they are ideal for building and repair in the body."

Question: What if I feel better eating more protein?

Answer: First of all, consider this. The research doesn’t say, only A blood types have high cancer and other disease risk if they eat a lot of meat. It’s ALL blood types who do.

The New York Times called The China Study, “the Grand Prix of Epidemiology.” It’s the biggest nutrition study in history, and its main macro implication is, high animal protein diseases lead to all the diseases of the modern age.

If you “feel better” eating more protein, it’s only temporary. It has nothing to do with your blood type. Or what your ancestors ate.

That diet has made its creator a lot of money, but it’s been very well and soundly debunked. (Sure, you feel better “eating for your blood type,” but that is because the diet eliminates refined carbs for ALL the diets. Virtually all Americans eat lots of processed carbs, and you will always feel better getting off them.)

The easiest way to explain why the Blood Type Diet is a sham is to ask you two questions and let you mull it over. Use your critical thinking skills.

First of all, are ALL your ancestors from the same place? How do people whose ancestors are from different continents prescribe their diet according to A, O, or AB blood? And, why did every one of the ancient cultures the authors refer to have ALL THE BLOOD TYPES? That’s right, ancient Asians had O, A, B, and AB blood. Ditto ancient Europeans. Hmmm. Makes you scratch your head, doesn’t it?

If you feel better eating a lot of protein, it’s because when you shift to eating a plant-based diet, your body immediately begins to detoxify. That process often initially involves weakness and fatigue. That’s simply a transition.

I felt the same way when I stopped eating animals, a temporary malaise. Now I virtually never eat any animals (a bite of red meat now and then makes me nauseous, which I couldn’t have imagined back in the days I ate a burger for lunch every day). And I have never had so much energy.

In my 20’s, I was exhausted by the things I now do on a daily basis, and love every minute of it! When I was 22, I was exhausted by the time I rented skiis, drove to the resort, and strapped on my boots. I did it to be with my friends, but secretly I wondered, “What’s fun about this?” That was my attitude towards much of my life! Now I ski 2-3 afternoons a week, after working out in the morning and doing my job all day, and I still have plenty of energy for my evening.

I’m just a case study. My experience isn’t everyone’s. I get that. I’m just using my own experience as an example. The principles in this answer are a synopsis of much reading and research, and they are solid and well documented. Unfortunately, some of the Food Cults of the past few decades have you legitimately confused, conflicted, and overwhelmed.

Give any shift towards nutrient-dense foods TIME. Be patient with temporary reactions that aren’t always comfortable. Proteins are needed to build and repair. But excesses of them rob the body of minerals.

Excesses of protein radically increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and autoimmune conditions, due to fragments of undigested proteins floating in the bloodstream en masse, far more than the body can metabolize.

If you do eat animal proteins, eat only range-fed and organic. This will massively increase your grocery bill, whereas legumes and whole grains, with 10 percent protein (which is ideal for digestion) are very inexpensive.

A picture of various legumes in bowls on a black background.
"...legumes and whole grains, with 10 percent protein (which is ideal for digestion) are very inexpensive."

Question: What About “Eating Right for My Blood Type?” 

Aren’t O blood types supposed to eat lots of animal protein, and A types do well as vegetarians?

Answer: I have written more extensively on this subject on the site. (Should I eat for my blood type?)

Let me give you the nutshell version of why experts like Dr. Joel Fuhrman have thoroughly debunked the junk science that underpins this fad diet. Before you get emotional about this because you feel better “eating for your blood type,” let me point out that EVERYONE will feel better eliminating processed foods, and thankfully, the D’Adamos tell All the blood types to eliminate processed carbs.

But the entire philosophy is based on where your ancestors came from. What to do about people whose mother and father are from two different continents/cultures? And what about the fact, just think about this, that ALL of those cultures had A, B, AB, and O blood types? It all falls apart here.

Certainly, people are all different and there is no “one size fits all” diet. If you are very emotionally attached to meat, eat it. Just eat very little of it (there is NO “type” who shouldn’t eat disease-preventative, low-environmental-impact raw plant foods, none!). And eat clean meat. (It’s very expensive.)

Question: Tell Me One More Benefit to Not Over-Consuming Animal Protein, to Pinkie Push Me into Eating More Legumes and Nuts and Seeds and Greens!

Answer: I confess I made this question up. No one has ever asked it of me before. It’s a totally opportunistic fake question designed so I can tell you THIS:

When the economic bubble supporting meat and dairy bursts, you’re not going to be able to afford meat or milk. It takes 20 pounds of plant food to yield one pound of beef. That’s why no other culture in the history of the world has eaten as much meat as we do!

(Yes, some cultures who lived on the water ate LOTS of fish, or whale blubber. But this was long ago, when fresh fish nutrition wasn’t heavily counterbalanced by terribly polluted waters.)

Do the math. If one pound of plants costs $1, then a pound of meat, with NO PROFIT for the rancher, should cost $20/lb.! Oops, we forgot to factor in that that same pound of beef also requires 1,000 gallons of water! You read that right. One thousand gallons.

So, when the U.S. government stops propping up meat and dairy with subsidies, people will be FORCED to stop eating it, unless they have a ranch with all the raw materials and can raise beef and pigs and chickens themselves.

We might want to just get used to eating low on the food chain now.

READ NEXT: Whey Protein Is Bad for You, Here’s Why

Photograph of Robyn Openshaw, founder of Green Smoothie GirlRobyn Openshaw, MSW, is the bestselling author of The Green Smoothies Diet, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and 2017’s #1 Amazon Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller, Vibe. Learn more about how to make the journey painless, from the nutrient-scarce Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods diet, in her free video masterclass 12 Steps to Whole Foods.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that help support the GSG mission without costing you extra. I recommend only companies and products that I use myself.

Posted in: Exercise, Health Concerns, Whole Food

20 thoughts on “Protein Questions and Answers: Myths and Truths”

Leave a Comment
  1. lindsey says:

    The only way I know how to lose weight is the 30/30/40 plan. I don’t like eating that much meat, however, how can I lose weight eating that many carbs- even when they are whole food plants? Also, is there a percentage of carbs to fat one should eat?

    1. Jules says:

      honestly, you don’t lose weight when you suddenly have the perfect balance of different calorie types. You lose weight when you eat Robyn’s way.

      There are several reasons for this, but the first is that most people have gained weight eating far too much sugar, fat, and other refined foods laced with harmful chemical additives. Once you eat this new way, those food are almost entirely eliminated, which cuts huge amounts of calories from your diet.

      The second reason you lose weight eating this way is because your body is able to function at a much higher level– especially metabolically (unless of course, you have thyroid problems). Your body has more energy, is more efficient with fuel, and craving disappear, which means you lose the cycle of deprivation and binge eating, which is common with other diets.

      Also, the bulk of what you eat is nutrient rich but calorie poor (greens, water based veggies, etc) and so you get full on less calories, which allows you to lose weight as well. Believe me, if all you eat is nuts and seeds, veggies and fruit, and whole grains, with limited animal intake, you will lose the weight in a healthy way (meaning not all at once). And you will have more energy to exercise, which means you will lose even more.

      1. lindsey says:

        Thanks! It seems a little overwhelming to get started, but I KNOW eating meat 30% of my caloric intake is WAY too much, so I appreciate the explanation.

  2. Carol says:

    This was very informative. I’m just about to run about of my current protein powder and will give this a try – chocolate, of course. Also, thanks for the minerals. My nails are actually growing and not splitting, which has never happened before (I’m 52). 🙂

  3. Dan Linsz says:

    Robyn, I love the idea of adding your GreenSmoothieGirl Protein powders to our Blendtec green smoothies. Would you suggest one protein powder over the other? We have 4 boys 10 years old and younger and we all drink green smoothies. Is the $33.95 protein powder more desirable for us to use as a family or is the $23.95 powder okay?

  4. Sheldon says:

    Awesome! Great info, and spot on.

  5. Amanda says:

    What about the claims that grains and legumes cause inflammation? I haven’t experienced this but I have a bunch of friends who swear by the Paleo diet. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

    1. Robyn says:

      Amanda, hybridized gluten grains DO cause inflammation. Most people need to heal their gut and would be best off if they go gluten free, at least for a time. If they do go back to gluten grains, they should eat ONLY organics, preferably sprouted, grains. Many grains (or foods CALLED “grains” for lack of a better category name, such as quinoa, amaranth, millett, etc.) don’t have gluten and don’t cause inflammation.

      As for legumes, they should be eaten without salt and organic wherever possible, and unless a person has a gut issue (many do in the modern age! they can be tested for this and interventions can turn this around), they should not be inflammation-causing.

  6. Kari McEvoy says:

    I love bodybuilding! It’s my hobby. I have tried your diet a few times but each time I replaced beans, and whole grains with animal protein I started having gas issues felt very bloated. I was on the vegan diet for about 2 weeks both times. I really want to get back on your diet but do not want to have that bloated feeling and gas all day long. Any thoughts? Also, how do you feel about vegan bodybuilders? Do you think that it is a healthy lifestyle?

  7. DeeDee says:

    Does the same discount apply to the “Variety Pack” of Protein? Buy 2 get one Free?

    1. Robyn says:

      DeeDee, yes.

      1. Christy says:

        How many servings per bag of protein that you sell? Thanks

  8. Teresa says:

    Hi Robyn, I just want to tell you that I truly enjoy reading all your blogs. You are such an inspiration. I am 65 and my hisband is 73. We have been eating a whole food plant based diet for over 3 years now. We were vegetarians before that, but would occationally eat the very bad for you sweets, and breads.

    We now, never eat sweets and only eat sprouted bread. My family all think us sort of fanatic about what we eat. I really don’t care what they think. I know we are doing the right thing for our bodies, but wish we had gone this root MANY years ago. We have our green smoothies every day plus eat lots of other raw food throughout the day.

    My question! I have been layed up with a cervical herniated disc In C5 and C6, for 6 weeks. Going Crazy Here! We are very active generally. Do you have an opinion on eating a very high raw food diet to help heal this problem, in lue of a steroid shot? Maybe diet can’t heal this. My past very agressive life in sports, with lots of skiing falls, bike falls, hiking falls, are all catching up with me in the form of arthritis.

  9. Nancy Merritt says:

    I ordered — and have received — the Green Smoothie Girl Protein – Variety Pack. According to my packing list I should also received a free copy of the eBook – Protein Shake Recipes. Where is it? How do I access it?

  10. SheriPorter says:

    So, do I even need to buy GSG Protein Powder? Would I, 37 yrs benefit, or my children, 11 and younger?

  11. Sheri Porter says:

    How do I know if I’m getting enough protein, or if I would benefit from the Protein Powder? I am 37 yrs old and don’t exercise much (does raising 6 kids count? haha) My children are 11 yrs and younger – would they benifit from the protein powder? Thanks!

  12. Brooke F. says:

    Howdy Robyn, I have been searching and experimenting with different lifestyle changes for over a year now…I have been feeling the need to do so for even longer. Anyway, about 5 months ago my 30 year old, not overweight, fairly active husband woke up (for real) with a brain injury. After doing a complete work up, Stanford University doctors found a disease in his chest that was very rare so they took it out thinking it may be what caused an autoimmune response to attack his brain.

    Anyway, he is in recovery now and doctors still aren’t sure why it all happened, we have no definitive answers. Anyway, we are just now getting to where he is not in a hospital and so his diet is no longer driven by that, so we cut out refined carbs and dairy about a month and a half ago. And are still eating meat…but trying to stick to organic/grass fed, etc. except when we go out…for obvious reasons.

    And even then we don’t eat it every night. I usually make one vegetarian meal a week, at least. And we eat lentils and beans quite a bit. Anyway, the biggest reasons why we kept meat in our diet is because my husband lost over forty pounds while he was very ill in the hospital and has only gained back about 17 in the last 3 1/2 months since he has been out. We are afraid that if he stops eating meat he will get scary thin again.

    As it is he only weighs about 148 now. He is 5’10” and weighed 170 before, which is only about 5 pounds overweight for his body…he was/is a thin person. He is in therapy for 6 hours a day, and I tell him that he needs to be eating snacks between meals…almonds, seeds, etc. But he isn’t always hungry and he is super busy during the day so he needs easy stuff. Anyway, I think we are wanting to make the transition to no meat, 60% raw in the next month…what do you suggest to help him gain weight (or at least maintain) while eating only a plant based diet?

    Also, I am always so sketchy on what is actually a whole grain or not…I would like to do vegan pizza, and maybe some pasta occasionally for him. As far as grains go, we have been sticking to whole oats and I have purchased ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas a few times now. But that’s it, out of concern we are getting something bad for us. But even a snack of almond butter sandwich or something like that would be relatively easy to eat during therapy sessions. I just never feel confident I am actually getting whole grains and am not sure how to read labels. Whew…that was a book! Thanks for all the information you provide on your blog as well as the inspiration you are.

    1. Robyn says:

      Hi Brooke, I’m so sorry for what you and your husband have been through! I can’t make specific dietary recommendations—that’s quite a medical history, and this is just the internet, you know? I’m not a practitioner. But you can put lots of the higher-calorie, good-fats whole foods in his diet. Avocadoes, coconut and coconut oil, nuts and seeds. I never tell people not to eat meat, super personal decision and everyone’s different. Glad you’re getting grass fed! Much love and hope to you,


      1. Brooke F. says:

        Thanks for the response! I didn’t mean to freak you out with the ginormous message and all the back ground info. I should have just asked what you recommend to help maintain or gain weight on a plant based diet. I know most people lose weight when making this kind of transition. Our decision to give up meat was after much research, reading, and discussion. I know you are not a practitioner. No worries! At any rate, I do appreciate you sharing yours and other successes and stories… It gives lots of hope and makes a huge impact. Bless you!

  13. Eunice says:

    Hi Robyn,
    I live in the UK and am hoping to get into the 26 day detox programme. I have also looked at your protein mixes and supplements. They look and sound great but unfortunately are not available for me! What alternative protein mixes or specific supplements would you recommend I purchase so I could also benefit from the programme?
    Thank you

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