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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

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

Leave a Comment
  1. Shellie says:

    THANK YOU Robyn! You just helped me win an argument with my husband! Ha Ha! He keeps asking me, “Where’s the meat?” as he sees it slowly disappearing from our diets (meanwhile looking and feeling better than he ever has.) Great explanation!

  2. Diana says:

    I have had your blog in my reader for a while but ever since you switched over your website (or at least I think that’s when it started) I no longer get informed when a new article is posted, I only get informed when people leave comments. My reader inbox is flooded with every comment made on here. Not sure what the issue is but I thought I would give you a heads up as to what’s happening. Thanks for all the good info you post, I look forward to getting your posts once I get this sorted out.

    1. Robyn says:

      Diana, that’s weird! IDK why. No one else has said that. I am so not ‘technical.’ Thank goodness for some people who are, who help me, or there would be no

      1. laura says:

        i’ve been having the same problem, although i do get the post updates. but i get EVERY SINGLE COMMENT in my feed as well. i thought it was something me or my kids did to my computer, lol. glad it’s not just me and something i don’t know how to fix. maybe your techy person can fix it?

        1. Robyn says:

          Just told my webmaster about this, getting every post update, sorry about this!

      2. Tara says:

        I actually had the same thing happen to me. I just went back to my RSS app and re-added the blog web address and now I get the actual posts. I left the old one as well so I get both the comments on anything and the posts.

      3. Elizabeth says:

        Diana and Robyn, that happen to me too…the RSS feed linked to the comments when the site switched…you can go back on the blog and re-subscribe to the article RSS feed. Then delete (if you want, I didn’t) the comments feed. Once linked the blog articles shows as ‘GreenSmoothieGirl’ and the comments show as ‘Robyn’s Blog’. Hope this helps.

  3. Steff says:

    I HOPE the meat and dairy bubble bursts!!!! I drove a neighbor who doesn’t have a car to the grocery store a few days ago. She said, “I just need to run in really quick to buy our meat for the month.” She came out with THIRTEEN grocery bags full of meat for her family of three (one of which is a 5 yr old). I was beside myself.

    Anyway, Robyn, I am so very thankful I ended up in your MCOMM 320 class 5ish years ago. I can’t even think about where I would be right now (or what my kids would be eating!!!) if I hadn’t met you. THANK YOU!

    1. Robyn says:

      Steff, so great to hear from you…..GROSS. Funny that the MCom content may not have been as valuable as the inadvertent nutrition content. Sometimes you get more than you pay for, my friend! 😉

  4. Great post Robyn! Just a heads up your share buttons are not working.

  5. Caroline K. Wells says:

    This blog rocks!!! I have been in this battle for years with all my medical family members and friends who are brainwashed by the complete protein thought:/ On another note – During my research and taking my CNHP classes, I was told and discovered that undenatured protein is the best, because it is not raised to the extreme temperatures that destroy the branched amino acids. Flavored protein powders, I think, cannot be undenatured because they have to hydrolyzed for easier mixing – which requires high temperatures. Thank you for challenging the world to take health and wellness seriously!!!

  6. Caroline K. Wells says:

    My girls listen to me read your blog on occassion and ask me often about your latest news:) They also pretend that they are the green smoothie girl and sell smoothies. This morning I was telling them about your most recent comments, m youngest daughter ran to the kitchen and began pulling things off the shelf to check the ingredient list. No soy isolate, but soy lecithin. Is this also as bad?? She is prepared to throw it all away – my neurotic daughter that is very extreme about all things, much to the upset of my oldest daughter (that wants to be healthy – but feels her younger sister is a little overboard)!! I promise they have been raised in the same house by the same parents. Funny how different children can be:)

    1. Robyn says:

      Caroline, soy lecithin is the hardest one to get away from, and also the one most likely to have some health benefits. While it may be hard or next to impossible to be purists, we can at least not buy products with soy as major ingredients, and stick to mostly natural, whole foods, and little that comes in boxes and cans.

  7. Paula Clark says:

    I am temped to try Green Smoothie Girl Protein BUT I gotta know if will blend well. I have tried other pea-protein powders and ugh! did not mix well. I was very disappointed. Whey mixes so thoroughly but is just too heavy on tummy.

    Paula Clark

  8. I think she is Right, reason is I am on a clean diet and found when I handle my emotions and exercise
    i need only 1/3 of the food i need otherwise, so need is low I am a 54 yr old male.
    So follow what she teaches… you will feel like a million bucks… I know i do! William

  9. Lowell Hartman says:

    Everytime I start drinking green smoothies I get headaches so I stop. I know I am detoxifying. How many days will I have the headaches before I start feeling better and the detoxification is completed?

    1. Robyn says:

      Lowell, usually it is no more than a few days, and it’s common among caffeine drinkers. Hang in, my friend. Remember, good food isn’t the enemy! It’s all the baddies that want to come out…..

    2. Deena says:

      I had the same reaction. I got headaches and nausea every single time, and it was intense. I assumed it was detox and kept up drinking them daily for 3 months until the idea of drinking one was too repulsive. The symptoms never improved. I eventually talked to Robyn about it at one of her classes. She asked me if I had any food allergies.. Lo and behold I discovered I have quite a few food allergies and now that I have eliminated those foods I don’t get the reaction from greens (they were stirring the pot of toxic build up from years of eating food I can’t digest) It took about a year to fully figure out the food allergy thing and it took just as long to want to drink anything green after such negative side effects for so long.

      If you want to ease the symptoms of detox Epsom salt baths, clay baths, sea salt baths, sweating(sauna, exercise), extra water, and making sure you are regular will move the detox along and ease the symptoms. Don’t be afraid to take it slower. Start with a smaller amount of greens or a smaller amount of smoothie and build slowly. If symptoms do not improve, consider that something else, like food allergies, could be playing a role.

  10. Brynda Bechtold says:

    I can’t find an ingredient list for the protein powders. I just don’t consume anything without knowing the ingredients. Where can I find it?

    1. Robyn says:

      Hi Brynda, click on Product Description at the bottom of the item in the GSG store. 🙂 It’s pea and hemp protein, maca, and coconut oil.

  11. Lachell says:

    RE. today’s email. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been trying to adopt your 12 steps to whole foods (plant-based, whole-food diet) full-time for several years. I’ve had my ups and downs but am truly converted to the idea.

    I have had some major health issues in the last two years (Grave’s disease, now hypothyroid) and a friend recommended a book written by an endocrinologist. Everything she said about insulin and blood sugar made sense to me (I was eating A LOT of carbs in the form of fruit, grains, legumes, etc) and because I am insulin resistant I wanted to experiment with it to see if I would feel better, but I just cannot totally embrace the diet that goes with the book. Meat, meat and more meat.

    There are pluses to the diet in the form of healthy fats and whole foods (this dr. heavily promotes NO processed foods) but I cannot get over the protein issue. She emphasizes that while you are in the healing stage you need this protein to rebuild. I knew there must be a better way to get this protein and I should have realized that I could find it in plant food.

    In fact, I started making green smoothies again with your protein powder and sprouted flax (bought through Group Buy), lots of greens and a handful of fruit. They aren’t as tasty, but I have no choice. I watch my carb intake better than before and I am starting to transition away from the meat (I’ve never been naturally inclined toward meat, so it was tough to eat this way) and I am hoping to find my perfect diet: high in raw plant food, with healthy fats, protein and moderate carbs. I would love to see more info out there for the insulin-resistant vegan. Thanks for all you do. Your common sense approach has always resonated with me.

    1. Hugo Victoria says:

      Hola Robyn, I have been in the health foods industry for many years and I am raw vegan, now. The way I see this thing about the blood type, in my opinion, is that some people need more protein than others and doesn¨t have to be animal proteín. Common sense.

      1. Robyn says:

        Hugo Victoria, I agree.

      2. Lachell says:

        I was following Robyn’s 12 steps program when my health problems arose. I resisted traditional treatment thinking I could manage my health by drinking green smoothies and juicing, eating whole grains and fresh produce but it continued to spiral out of control. When I read the book by the endo, I learned things about how carbs affect blood sugar, etc, so I assumed the reason my health declined was because I was consuming too many carbs. My decision to experiment with the endo’s diet went against everything I have believed about nutrition. So…. four months later, I am revisiting what I have known all along. Protein from meat isn’t the answer. Even though I was purchasing the best quality meat available (no chemicals, hormones, organic, etc) I just don’t feel good about eating so much. I have read the China Study and many other books and should have known better, but I was tempted to experiment with something different after reading many case studies about people in my situation reversing their illnesses. Chalk it up to temporary insanity. Robyn’s recent email about protein reminded me that I don’t have to deviate from what I believe to be true. But something I was doing with 12 steps wasn’t working for me and I am still on a journey to find the best fit for me. I know I can’t consume so much fruit and grains, so I’m learning to tweak the whole-food, plant-based diet to avoid eating so many carbs.

  12. Polly Hada says:

    Dear Robyn,
    I have read and studied your reply to Melanie re what you would do if you had cancer. It has given me pause! May I ask you a question? I went through estrogen negative breast cancer in 2000. I am now 65 years old, in relatively good health. I exercise (CrossFit) regularly and try to make a greensmoothie every day. I’ve pretty much cleaned up our diet, using only organic meats, vegetables etc. But what really concerns me is the fact that I opted to go through conventional (lumpectomy, radiation, chemo) therapy over 12 years ago. Now my sister who has never had cancer was diagnosed w/Cholangiocarinoma, a rare form of liver/bile duct cancer. It is inoperable and in her lymph nodes. She has chosen alternative medicine and I support that completely. But what really concerns me is your comment that having undergone conventional therapy for cancer lessens the likelihood that alternative therapies would work if cancer returned. As you know, estrogen negative cancer is not a good diagnosis and now that my sister has turned up w/this very bad cancer, I am wondering how I should change my lifestyle to optimize my lifespan and health. I have 13 beautiful grand children and want to do all I can to be around for at least 20 more years to see them grow and support my children as they are rearing them. I guess I should purchase your 12 steps book and will do so, but would really appreciate your advice. I just purchased your 3-pack of new protein powders, and have been staying away from the soy/whey proteins for many years. Thank you for all you are doing to promote healthy living for all your followers. I eagerly await your reply.

  13. Christy says:

    How many servings are there in your protein bags? I don’t see that listed anywhere.

    Thank you,
    – C

  14. anne sandell says:

    HI Robyn,
    I live downunder in Australia… can I buy the protein powder… the shop only allows for an address in United States… 🙁

    1. Robyn says:

      Sorry, Anne, we can’t ship to AU—the shipping would cost more than the product itself! 🙁

      1. Carmie says:

        Hi Robyn,
        For those living outside of North America… or even in North America for that matter, would it be possible to set up a purchase to download a copy of your most requested book/books? Then at least, shipping wouldn’t be a problem. And for some, space is a concern and it would be easier to have the book on a computer/notebook/iPad etc.
        If it were possible, maybe, to send materials by bulk to a local Health Food Outlet in Australia, wouldn’t it be cheaper to ship by book bulk? I understand it takes a long time but is cheaper. (Just Wondering)

  15. Kathy soffe says:

    Hemp seed has always been something that cause constipation I know that is 1 of its side effects I would be worried to drink the protein powder with it ini there. What would you suggest?

    1. Robyn says:

      Kathy, you mean hempseed caused constipation for YOU? I don’t know why, because it’s very high in fiber. ?? Make sure you drink plenty of water, of course.

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