If you are a carnist, or even a vegan, you have probably used, or simply heard, of this argument. It usually gets passed around in pictures like this:
But is this accurate? Well, let’s just look at the evidence. All the figures I get will come from Cronometer, a site that I use to count calories, amino acids, and the like. All of the figures I will use will come from 100 Calorie samples, like this:
So let’s see, how much Protein does 100 Calories of broccoli have? 11.1 grams of protein. That’s 2 whole cups of chopped broccoli. So on this front, the picture above is indeed correct. But how about the protein found in 100 Calories of steak?
Well, first of all, what type of steak? There is sirlion, rib eye, Tenderlion, Plate. So in order to avoid all confusion, I added numberous types of steak, as well as raw grass fed steak, and both 70% lean, and 95% lean, hamburger. Per 100 Calories:
- Sirloin Steak has 13.8 grams of protein
- Rib Eye has 10.7 grams
- Tenderloin has 15 grams
- Skirt of Plate steak has 10.7 grams
- Raw Grass Fed has 19.7 grams
- 70% Lean Beef has 9.5 grams
- 95% Lean Beef has 15.7 grams
So I have to ask what kind of steak has only 6.5 grams of protein per 100 Calories? No steaks I can find even come close.
Now you can eat more broccoli for the same number of Calories, as opposed to a portion of a small steak, but not many people are going to just sit down and eat 2 cups of diced broccoli in one sitting. 100 Calories of Broccoli has about the same amount of protein as many steaks, but almost twice the amount? no. More than? Not really.
This kind of misinformation only causes harm to the vegan movement, because once the reasonable person checks these statistics and finds out that they are bogus, it puts the credibility of vegan protein at risk. Who is going to believe that Lentils, Tofu, TVP, Seitan, or Edamame is full of good protein if we are lying about the protein in meat in order to make vegetables look better than? The only two veggie substitutes that can compare to many steaks in terms of Protein per Calorie is Seitan, and TVP. Both good plant foods, but broccoli? Not really.
Vegetarian processed products, like Boca chik’n patties, Morningstar meatless patties, Gardein meatless meatballs, are all high in wonderful plant-based protein, but they just don’t compare to the amount of protein found in animal flesh Calorie per Calorie, with 11.5, 7.2, and 10 grams of protein per 100 Calories respectively. And this is compared to 20.4 grams found in 100 Calories of Tilapia, or 17.9 in 100 Calories of lean chicken.
Now is this a bad thing? Not by any means. We really don’t need an excess of protein in our diets, in fact, an excess of animal protein (probably not from chicken or fish though) increases your risk for overall mortality and cancer, according to a study published in in the journal Cell. Plant protein is actually better for you than animal protein, and we only need about 0.8 grams per kg of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. For me, that is only about 65 grams of protein, which can come easily through lentils, pasta, bagels, beans, soymilk, and bread. I don’t need a meal that has 35 grams of protein in it with few Calories in a single sitting.
Yes, a plant-based diet is full of healthy proteins, but no, broccoli does not have twice the Protein of steak.