Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Protein Propaganda Pisses Me Off

There are a lot of pictures going round on various social media sites and elsewhere showing examples of 'protein-rich foods', and quite simply this pictures are outright lies! They are misleading, and real numbers provided are also wrong (sometimes by a lot), and people just assume they're true and think they can get enough protein just eating spinach. You'd have to eat ~1.75kg of spinach to get 50g of protein, I don't think anyone would actually be able to manage this but it would sure as hell be funny to watch.

Just as a note, these pictures are almost always associated with raw vegan diets, so all data is of raw, not cooked food.

Ok, lets take a look a a couple of pictures:

Some versions of this picture has a line of text at the bottom mentioning that the numbers of percentage by calorie (rather than weight), but most have this line cut off.

 Lets go to the USDA food nutrition database (http://nutritiondata.self.com) and double check these:

Food% caloriesgrams/100ggrams for 50g protein
Mushroom (white)36.3%3.09g1,620g
Cabbage (red)11.2%1.43g3,495g
Beef (composite of
trimmed retail cuts,
separable lean and
 fat, trimmed to 1/8"
fat, all grades)
Chicken (skinless breast)79.5%21.23g235g
Eggs (chicken)34.6%12.56g400g (8 medium)

Number of plants falsely given higher high percentage of calories as protein = 9.5/10 (Only giving half a point from mushroom because the difference was small.

But percentage of calories from protein matter little, we just want to make sure we get enough protein per day. 50 grams of protein is roughly the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for a 150lbs adult (46g for female, 56g for male), it's also a nice round number which we can use to compare how much of a food we need to get the small amount of protein. As I said in my introductory paragraph, you'll need ~1.75kg (~1750g) of spinach for 50g protein. You'll also need about   5.7kg of tomato to get 50g of protein. But you only need ~270g of beef, or 235g of chicken breast. The chicken breast really pisses me off, because they claim it's low in protein (23%) when in fact of all the foods mentioned it is the highest in protein both as percentage of calories and by weight! Maybe they were using another cut of chicken but the picture shows skinless boneless breasts so that's what I data I pulled out.

 - - - - -

I want to start with my absolute scream at the computer how can anyone be this stupid point: Figs. They are 3% protein by calories, and you'd need to eat 6.7kg of them to get 50g protein. If figs are a high protein food then coconut oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids (hint it's really low!).

Ditto the avocados, only 4.2% by calories, but you'd only need to eat 2.5kg for 50g protein which'll give you 4000 calories just from avocados! Similarly goji berries are 3.6% protein by calories and you'd need to eat 7kg of them to get 50g of protein, that's more than the figs!!

Some of these foods aren't that bad really though. Hemp seeds are ~25% by calories, 135-150g for 50g protein (several data entries on CRONometer for hemp seeds (CRONometer draws from the USDA database and also has lots of brand names of health-foods)). This is likely the best protein source in the picture.

Now for a few funny ones: Brazil nuts are 8% protein by calories and you need 350g for 50g of protein, but you'll also get ~7000ug of selenium which will kill you. Chia is 12% by calories, 300g for 50g protein. But you'll have massive diarrhoea with that, as even a few tablespoons will clear you out.

Spinach, kale, and broccoli I've already covered in the last picture.

Maca: 26.7% by calories, and you need 250g for 50g protein. Not bad, but as it's a 'superfood' good luck affording it and enjoy eating a whole bag of powder in one go :P That'll also come with 150g of carb which may be high for some people.

With sprouts, it appears to be legume sprouts in the picture. Many sprouts are rich in protein because the legumes are protein-rich, but be careful as many sprouts lose protein during the sprouting process depending in species. Don't eat kidney bean sprouts raw either, they're poisonous. Mung bean sprouts, aka the bean sprouts in chinese food, are 24.6% protein by calories, but you'd need to eat ~1.6kg to get 50g of protein because they're so full of water.

I don't have data for barley grass juice, but I do for wheat grass juice: 78.7% by calories, and you need to drink ~405ml pure juice for 50g protein, have fun trying to drink all that!!

Spirulina: 54.8% protein by calories, and you need to eat 845g to get 50g of protein, which is really hard as you're eating pond-scummy bacteria.

 - - - - -

Food% caloriesgrams/100ggrams for 50g protein
Pumpkin seeds18.8%30.2g166g
Quinoa (raw)15.3%14.1g355g
Sweet potatoes5.1%1.6g3,125g
Sesame seeds10.7%17.7g282g
Sunflower seeds12.3%20.8g240g

Pumpkin seeds aren't that bad actually, but 166g will give you ~34g of omega-6 fatty acids too, same story with the other seeds.

 - - - - -


Now not mentioned in these pictures as a good protein source is legumes as they must be cooked or sprouted (we already talked about sprouting), and as we know cooked food is bad for us (not!). Cooked lentils are 26.9% protein by calories, and you need 2.8 cups (~555g) for 50g of protein (raw measure ~1cup dry, ~195g), which will also give 112g carbohydrates. Not bad for a vegan protein source.


If you want protein, eat meat not greens. For plant based protein go for hemp seeds and cooked legumes like lentils and kidney beans.


When a vegan points out that a cow can grow big on a vegan diet, point out the high protein content of wheat grass, but they also eat all day every day to digest it and need four stomach and multiple chewings to digest it. Gorillas also eat high-protein leaves too and also spend a lot of time eating a lot of food, have huge caecums, and eat their poop for vitamin B12 (go search youtube, there are thousands of videos capturing different apes doing this). Also these animals are actually eating a ketogenic diet as the huge amounts of fibre eaten are fermented into short chain fatty acids such as butyric acid (named for being in butter) which they get ~65% or more of their calories from (more for cows as fermentation is earlier)! (link) If you really want to eat like a herbivore, grow/buy ~3kg of watercress daily and ferment it until it's nice and rich in butyric acid then drink/eat the resulting concoction. Mmm, gross, that's why real herbivores ferment in their guts... which we're not able to do. Now grow a pair and eat your damn steak!


If my numbers are wrong at all, please let me know and I will correct this article. I'd rather say I was wrong then continue to spread lies, unlike some people.


  1. Brilliant Elizabeth. Keep them coming! Diana

  2. Ooh, just found your blog, Elizabeth. Nice work!

  3. I agree with your severe dissatisfaction--it would take a pickup truck bed full of produce, eaten every day, to get what nutrition one garners with meat, spices, eggs, microgreens/sprouts, etc.

    Who's got time, energy, or stomach room to eat all that stuff?

  4. Great work thanks for doing this. I analysed Durianriders (30 bananas a day ) diet some time back, there is a post on my blog. It took 7000Kcal a day to get around 70 grams of protein.


  5. Who's dumb enough to eat ONE food source just to get protein? Those foods listed above are excellent protein SOURCES. There are other nutrients your brain and body needs that you get from other foods (some of which will also have protein; these sources simply have a higher protein content than others).

    Next, you'd rather compromise quality for volume. So in addition to the large amount of protein you're getting from meat, you're also getting cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, acid reflux, digestion problems, plaque on the walls of your colon, plus, since those foods sit in your gut and rot because of how long they take to digest. Ummm. .sure.

  6. Oh good grief Tibby... the fact that you still believe that "meat rots in your colon" makes the rest of your post not only factually incorrect, but completely irrelevant.

    I suggest you read this blog post:


    The real life experiences of this man settles the idea once and for all that "meat rots in the colon". All it takes is a little observation... if you've ever bother to look at your stool... you would notice little chunks of vegetation that you've consumed... but you'll never see any chunks of meat. Meat is pretty much COMPLETELY broken down by the stomach... it doesn't even make it to the colon.

    Please stop perpetuating this myth.

  7. My post is factually correct. As an investigative reporter for national, Pulitzer-winning publications, I conducted a two-year study during my grad work in London, with myself as one of my 10 testers. "Meat is pretty much...broken down?" Either it is or it isn't. You can't "pretty much" be pregnant. Or will you find a BLOG where some man was?
    Based on EXTENSIVE research and PERSONAL experiences, it isn't. Looks like YOU need to do your own research before you start denigrating MY verifiable facts.

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