How do those on a raw food diet get a sufficient amount of protein? Can they get an adequate amount of protein from eating raw vegetables alone?
For a low-activity lifestyle, foods that contain at least 10% protein (by energy) are key.
Assuming a dietary target of 55 g protein and 2200 kcal total energy per day, 10% of energy must be provided by protein to meet the target. Individual foods that contain less than 10% protein by energy are fine, as long as they are balanced with foods that contain more than 10% protein by energy.
Here are some raw whole foods that contain more than 11% protein by energy.
- seeds hemp seed, flax seed, chia seed, sesame seed
- nuts peanut, cashew, almond, pistachio
- legumes: fresh peas
- dark greens: spinach, chard, romaine, green leaf lettuce, arugula
- cruciferous: kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy
- vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, beetroot, sweet pepper, garlic, mushroom, okra, tomato
Note that fruit is conspicuously absent from this list. Most (all?) fruits have less than 10% protein by energy. Fruit should only play a minor part in a raw vegan diet for people who are mostly sedentary.
There are also companies that make raw vegan protein powder, if you're into that.
People who are very active (like walking or running 10 km every day) will have a much larger energy budget to work with, and will find it easier to include more fruits and berries into a balanced raw food diet.
All fruits and vegetables have protein. The daily Recommended Dietary Intake (DRI) is 0.8 gram per kilogram of weight.
That means, for a person who weighs 150 lbs (68 kg), ze should consume 68 x 0.8 g = 54.4 g protein.
- 1 medium stalk of broccoli has 4.26 g protein - 1 cup of peas has 8.5 g - 1 medium avocado has 2.67 g - 1 cup of mushrooms has 2.97 g - 1 cup of spinach has 1 g - 1 cup of Chinese cabbage has 1 g - 1 cup of asparagus has 2.9 g - 1 cup of apricots has 2.2 g - 1 cup of blackberries has 2 g - 1 cup of banana has 1.3 g - and so forth
Compared to 9 oz beef sirloin steak, which has 78 g of protein, and is well over the RDI in a single serving, you'll need to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables to get to the same amount. For the 150 lb person, ze would have to eat like 20 avocados! But, to answer your question, yes, you can get an adequate amount of protein from raw sources alone. The problem is, it will take a lot of time and energy to achieve that goal each day.
This seems ridiculous in our society of highly processed foods to eat so much food and spend a lot of time doing so. However, given a different perspective, it isn't so unusual. Think about other primates and herbivores (like cows). What they do most of their day is eat plant matter. I read that those highly muscular mountain gorillas eat 40 lbs of vegetation a day (Source). Back as hunter gatherers, I bet humans were similar, spending a huge bulk of the day eating fruits, leaves, flowers, roots, shoots, and stems, in between hunts.
Also, maybe 150 lbs is a lot in terms of the weight of humans through history. People were smaller in the past, and probably needed less protein to be healthy.
A combination of the modern expectation that food consumption be brief and not time-consuming as it was in the past, as well as our heavier weights, make eating enough raw foods to get enough protein every day, unreasonable.
It would be easier to get more protein with cooked plant matter. That is why people mention beans as being good for protein. Edamame, for example, has 18 g per cup. Seeds and nuts, which often need to be cooked to be edible/palatable, also are a good source of protein.
A final note to consider is the idea that people should be eating more insects, such is customary in some countries. Three percent of a gorilla's diet is to eat raw ants, snails, and grubs, and those have plenty of protein. Wouldn't that fit the definition of a raw food diet?
There are lots of protein-enhanced foods:
- flavored Water
- protein bar
However, the problem is not that simple because sometimes is not obvious if the food qualifies as raw food (did getting the proteins to be added involved high temperatures?). Also, as the same source mentions there might be some health issues associated with adding flavors, lots of sugars etc.