The public health rationale for promoting plant protein as an important part of a sustainable and healthy diet

M Lonnie, A M Johnstone* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


Sustainable diets are proposed as a means to improve public health and food security and to reduce the impact of the food system on the environment. Guidance around sustainable diets includes a reduction of animal products in order to move towards a more plant‐based diet, meaning that plant‐originated foods are a predominant, but not the sole component of a diet. The main principles of a sustainable diet (as provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization) are to consume a variety of unprocessed or minimally processed foods, mainly as wholegrains, pulses, fruits and vegetables, with moderate amounts of eggs, dairy, poultry and fish and modest amounts of ruminant meat, which are consistent with the current UK healthy eating recommendations (e.g. Eatwell Guide). The aim of this review was twofold: (i) to discuss public health challenges associated with consumers’ knowledge regarding protein sustainability, healthier protein sources and protein requirements, and (ii) to review potential approaches to facilitate the shift towards a more sustainable diet. Consumers would benefit from receiving clear guidance around how much protein is needed to meet their daily requirements. The public health message directed to a consumer could highlight that desired health outcomes, such as muscle protein synthesis and weight control, can be achieved with both sources of protein (i.e. animal and plant‐based), and that what is more important is the nature of the ‘protein package’. Health promotion and education around the benefits of plant‐based protein could be one of the strategies encouraging the wider population to consider a shift towards a predominantly plant‐based diet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-293
Number of pages13
JournalNutrition Bulletin
Issue number3
Early online date3 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Open Access via Wiley publishing agreement.
Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (GrantNumber(s): 1st April 2016 \ 31st March 2022)
Minister of Science and Higher Education (GrantNumber(s): Project No. 010/RID/2018/19)


  • animal protein
  • dietary protein
  • plant-based diet
  • protein requirements
  • sustainability
  • vegetarian


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