After watching one of those documentaries on Netflix. You might wonder does broccoli have more protein than steak. Like all things in nutrition, it depends.
Unlike a politician I will give you the brief answer you were looking for. No.
Now if you want the nuanced answer. Keep reading.
This isn’t a debate about ethics or veganism. You’re a grown adult, it’s not my job to tell you what to put in your mouth.
How to compare how much more protein does steak have than broccoli?
First of all steak isn’t this one entity. Steak comes in different cuts. Different cuts mean different nutritional values. My degree isn’t in veterinary medicine, but even I know different parts of a cow, will have different amounts of fat.
Fattier cuts of steak will have more fat, more calories and less protein. Less fattier cuts will have less calories, less fat and more protein.
When someone asks does broccoli have more protein than steak. We could be talking about various steaks. Someone could be comparing broccoli to the lowest protein, fattiest cut of steak.
Protein content of steak vs broccoli per 282 calories. Which does have more protein?
To keep things fair, I have chosen 3 different cuts of steak. Rump, Sirloin and Fillet. They are all compared with 655g of broccoli. Eveything’s from Tesco.
As you can see calorie for calorie each cut of steak has more protein than broccoli. I must say it’s very close, but steak still wins. Even the worst steak has more protein than broccoli, calorie for calorie.
Calorie for calorie broccoli has less protein than steak.
Also gram for gram broccoli has far less protein than steak. To get 30 grams of protein from broccoli, you’ll need 700g. That is a lot. You’d only need one cut of steak to get 30g of protein.
You might not think thats a bad thing, but you’d need 5 stalks of broccoli. That’s a lot of one food. Eating that much of the same food is going to be a tough ordeal. I don’t care how big your appetite is, even I’d struggle. Come to think of it, I would not want to share a bed with some that ate 5 stalks of broccoli everyday.
So even if broccoli did have more protein calorie for calorie. It would still be irrelevant due to the amount you’d have to eat. An ant would be stronger than us if it were our size, but it’s not our size, so it’s not stronger than us.
Complete proteins vs incomplete proteins
A complete has all 20 amino acids. Amino acids are the small building blocks that make a protein. Your body needs all 20.
Foods that come from animals have all 20. Foods that come from plants don’t.
So steak has all 20, broccoli only has 9. So even if it did have more protein, it doesn’t hall all the amino acids to be a complete protein.
Imagine 2 cars having a race. If broccoli was a car. It would be a car that’s missing certain parts of it. So you may have the shell of a car, but it’s missing its engine. Where as steak is the complete car.
If you are vegan, you need to eat a variety of plants to get all the amino acids. They combine to form a complete protein. So broccoli could be the shell of a car, rice could be the engine and peas could be the interior. You could have the best car in the world. But without an engine or interior, it’s useless.
A case for broccoli and plant proteins
I don’t want you to read this thinking I’m team meat and anti veg. In fact I’m not a fan of red meat. So if anything, you’d think I’d be biased against steak. But thats not how science works.
Anyway where broccoli wins, is that it has no saturated fat. Some cuts of steak can be very high in saturated fat. When cooked in butter that doesnt help either. A little satuated fat here and there is fine. But eaten in excess can lead to higher cholesterol and blood pressure.
The protein content in broccoli isn’t bad as you can see. Other vegetables are okay in protein too. If you eat a large variety of veggies everyday, you can get a decent amount of protein. This is without eating loads of animal products. A variety also means you’re more likely to get all the amino acids.
Sorry vegans, the broccoli argument needs to end.
For everyone else have your steak, but have broccoli too.
Josh is a Registered Associate Nutritionist, with the Association for Nutrition (AFN). He completed his degree in Nutrition at the University of Roehampton in 2021. He passed with a First Class with Honours.
Josh is also a tutor for up-and-coming Personal Trainers, where he teaches a Level 4 Advanced Nutrition course. This is for Personal Trainers looking to upskill their nutrition knowledge. This is done at Norfolk Health & Fitness.