25 votes

Vegetarian Protein Is Just As 'Complete' As Meat, Despite What We've Been Taught

42 comments

  1. AresOnasis
    Link
    This is really poor logic. Cows (and all ruminants) have specialised digestive systems that actually convert nutrients they eat, into nutrients that we eat. This is true, but it's also begging the...

    So if cows eat plants, and plants provide cows with all the nutrients they need, why would we assume steak is a more complete protein than the food that provides the steak with its nutrients? The answer: We shouldn’t.

    This is really poor logic. Cows (and all ruminants) have specialised digestive systems that actually convert nutrients they eat, into nutrients that we eat.

    “It turns out our body is not stupid,” Greger explains. “It maintains pools of free amino acids that can be used to do all the complementing for us. Not to mention the massive protein recycling program our body has. Some 90 grams of protein is dumped into the digestive tract every day from our own body to get broken back down and reassembled, so our body can mix and match amino acids to whatever proportions we need, whatever we eat.”

    This is true, but it's also begging the question about sustainability. If you stuck with a complete Protein source that was low in something, wouldn't you eventually become deficient in it? Those pools of free amino acids aren't infinite.

    Also their calculation for required Protein is just to not end up deficient... That's hardly a proper metric for optimal health. A lot of the article is misleading, and heavily biased.

    22 votes
  2. [16]
    Eabryt
    Link
    My girlfriend is vegan and as we've been dating for several years now my meat consumption has gone way down. I will still eat it occasionally because I grew up with a father who was raised in a...

    My girlfriend is vegan and as we've been dating for several years now my meat consumption has gone way down. I will still eat it occasionally because I grew up with a father who was raised in a butcher's shop, so he knew his way around some meat, but mostly I'm doing veggie supplements.

    Personally I love it, I feel way healthier, even if from a calorie standpoint I'm not necessarily eating less (I also don't need to lose any weight, so it's not really a concern of mine.)

    I don't think I'd ever go full vegan because I really like eggs & cheese, but I'm pretty happy sticking with a low-meat diet and haven't noticed a significant problem with me getting proper proteins.

    9 votes
    1. [4]
      alexandria
      Link Parent
      It's interesting everyone's mentioning protein, because I always thought that vegetarian diet was deficient in vitamins (notably B12), not protein. You can get plenty of protein from legumes, but...

      haven't noticed a significant problem with me getting proper proteins.

      It's interesting everyone's mentioning protein, because I always thought that vegetarian diet was deficient in vitamins (notably B12), not protein. You can get plenty of protein from legumes, but there are nutrients in meat that aren't necessarily bioavailable in a standard vegetarian / vegan diet.

      6 votes
      1. [3]
        Douglas
        Link Parent
        B12 is the only consistent one I've heard vegans/vegetarians need, but my latest physician also implied I should keep an eye on my iron as well. I personally just take a daily B12 and Omega...

        B12 is the only consistent one I've heard vegans/vegetarians need, but my latest physician also implied I should keep an eye on my iron as well. I personally just take a daily B12 and Omega supplement, it seems to keep my test results in the green every year.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          ubergeek
          Link Parent
          Vitamin D as well. It's why milk is fortified with it, to make up for a meat-deficient diet. That being said, humans aren't obligate carnivores, and we all could stand to eat far less meat than we...

          Vitamin D as well. It's why milk is fortified with it, to make up for a meat-deficient diet.

          That being said, humans aren't obligate carnivores, and we all could stand to eat far less meat than we do today in most of the the western world.

          Hell, if we just stick with animal byproducts (Milk and eggs), we'd probably be just fine.

          2 votes
          1. Douglas
            Link Parent
            Hmmm, I still only recall B12 being the deficiency vegetarians were specifically at risk of. I thought EVERYONE was doing a poor job with Vitamin D, regardless of diet. That said I might also have...

            Hmmm, I still only recall B12 being the deficiency vegetarians were specifically at risk of. I thought EVERYONE was doing a poor job with Vitamin D, regardless of diet.

            That said I might also have forgotten it on account my D's been in the green without supplements for as long as I've checked. I must be doing something right, just wish I knew what it was.

            2 votes
    2. [11]
      scissortail
      Link Parent
      When I went almost-vegan, I was shocked at how little I missed meat. What I missed were eggs. Mercy, did I crave those. These days I try to shop vegan at the grocery store, get butter and eggs...

      When I went almost-vegan, I was shocked at how little I missed meat. What I missed were eggs. Mercy, did I crave those. These days I try to shop vegan at the grocery store, get butter and eggs from a local farm, and only pay for meat when I eat out. Though I'm not lifting heavy at the moment, I haven't noticed any meaningful decline in athletic performance.

      5 votes
      1. [10]
        ubergeek
        Link Parent
        That's why I can see myself as vegetarian, but never vegan. I see no harm in drinking milk, consuming cheese, or eggs. I'd jump right on the "artificial meat" as soon as it hits the shelves,...

        That's why I can see myself as vegetarian, but never vegan. I see no harm in drinking milk, consuming cheese, or eggs.

        I'd jump right on the "artificial meat" as soon as it hits the shelves, though. I like meat, but if there is a more ethical substitute for it, I'd eat it.

        5 votes
        1. [6]
          apoctr
          Link Parent
          I think it follows in the same vein as ethical arguments against meat. Namely the poor conditions the animals tend to be kept in, even if they aren't being slaughtered for meat.

          I see no harm in drinking milk, consuming cheese, or eggs.

          I think it follows in the same vein as ethical arguments against meat. Namely the poor conditions the animals tend to be kept in, even if they aren't being slaughtered for meat.

          4 votes
          1. [5]
            ubergeek
            Link Parent
            My milk, cheese and eggs aren't factory farmed, though. They're treated pretty well. Princess Beyonce (One of my egg layers) seems quite happy on the couch right now :) Pretty sure the goats on...

            My milk, cheese and eggs aren't factory farmed, though. They're treated pretty well.

            Princess Beyonce (One of my egg layers) seems quite happy on the couch right now :)

            Pretty sure the goats on the local farm are living ok too, seeing as they are wearing hand crocheted sweaters :)

            6 votes
            1. apoctr
              Link Parent
              Haha, well if it's locally sourced it's a different story. I was referring to factory farming. Got any goat pics?

              Haha, well if it's locally sourced it's a different story. I was referring to factory farming.

              Got any goat pics?

              5 votes
            2. [3]
              acdw
              Link Parent
              If I may just poke at this, for me (a vegan), it's about the fact that even though she's basically a pet, she still doesn't have a choice in what happens to her eggs. Like, she made them, they're...

              If I may just poke at this, for me (a vegan), it's about the fact that even though she's basically a pet, she still doesn't have a choice in what happens to her eggs. Like, she made them, they're hers. And modern-day chickens have been bred to produce way more eggs than they really need to, which causes them all sorts of undue stress and pain.

              I understand that that argument is personifying animals, maybe to a degree that is a little goofy. But it's what gets me about milk & eggs, even hyperlocal ones.

              EDIT: I just want to make clear that I mean no disrespect. You're absolutely eating eggs the "right" way, caring for your own chickens and taking care of it all yourself, so that you know their quality of life is as good as possible.

              1. [2]
                ubergeek
                Link Parent
                Eh... Have you seen what a chicken does with eggs that are unfertilized? She gives two shits about them...

                Eh... Have you seen what a chicken does with eggs that are unfertilized? She gives two shits about them...

                2 votes
                1. acdw
                  Link Parent
                  Well, that's her perogative, is what I'm saying. They're her eggs. Now I've said that out loud, it does sound silly. I think a better reason is that I don't eat eggs because I don't have the time...

                  Well, that's her perogative, is what I'm saying. They're her eggs. Now I've said that out loud, it does sound silly.

                  I think a better reason is that I don't eat eggs because I don't have the time or energy to vet my eggs to make sure they're up to snuff, since I don't have my own chickens. And at least for me, it's too easy to fall into the trap of "well, I don't know exactly what the living conditions of the chicken who laid this egg were, but I eat them at home and I really want some eggs right now" and get to an unethical place. For me, it's easier to be strict.

                  1 vote
        2. [2]
          scissortail
          Link Parent
          I understand why vegans don't spring for milk/cheese/eggs--the factory farm conditions that they're often produced in are frankly brutal and inhumane. If I can source them from a smaller, more...

          I understand why vegans don't spring for milk/cheese/eggs--the factory farm conditions that they're often produced in are frankly brutal and inhumane. If I can source them from a smaller, more considerate source, though, I don't feel near as bad about eating them.

          I'm also ready to hop right on the artificial meat train. I'm very interested to see what the folks working on that come up with.

          edit: just saw apoctr's comment and your response, good to hear you've got your own egg layers! That's on my longterm to-do list for sure.

          3 votes
          1. ubergeek
            Link Parent
            Vegan's, I understand. It's an ethical thing. Doesn't logically make sense to me, but I can understand vegans method to their "madness". It's why I can be a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and be completely...

            Vegan's, I understand. It's an ethical thing. Doesn't logically make sense to me, but I can understand vegans method to their "madness".

            It's why I can be a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and be completely ok with it.

        3. edenist
          Link Parent
          Animals are slaughtered for milk production, though. Can't have milk without a continuous supply of baby cows. And if that cow happens to be male? Why waste resources keeping it alive if it wont...

          Animals are slaughtered for milk production, though. Can't have milk without a continuous supply of baby cows. And if that cow happens to be male? Why waste resources keeping it alive if it wont return on said investment.

          Any milk produced on commercial scale involves the slaughter of animals. And that's not a judgemental comment, people can take whatever actions they choose. But don't consume dairy under the assumption that it is better ethically/environmentally than consuming meat directly. It is only marginally so, at best.

          1 vote
  3. [23]
    rkcr
    Link
    I stumbled across this article last night and it kind of blew my mind (because I have been taught my whole life that vegetarianism == difficult protein acquisition). Does anyone here have any...

    I stumbled across this article last night and it kind of blew my mind (because I have been taught my whole life that vegetarianism == difficult protein acquisition). Does anyone here have any solid counter-arguments to it? I'm curious if I'm just being sucked in by bad science spread around the internet, or if it's actually true.

    The only other main source I've found of information is the Wikipedia page on protein combining, which seems to agree with the article linked.

    5 votes
    1. [3]
      ItchyOuch
      Link Parent
      Proteins are just a variety of amino acids. As long as you get enough of the essential amino acids, it's fine. It is quite possible to get adequate protein intake on a vegetarian diet. In the body...

      Proteins are just a variety of amino acids. As long as you get enough of the essential amino acids, it's fine. It is quite possible to get adequate protein intake on a vegetarian diet. In the body building world, for muscle growth, most people need around .5-1.5g per kg of lean body weight to be building muscle. Amount less than that would only be for muscle maintenance.

      From an efficiency perspective, It is easier to get 50-100g of protein via a steak or chicken breast as opposed to the gargantuan amount of legumes and nuts that would need to be consumed, but now there are vegan protein powders anyway.

      Usually, the problem with nutrition in general is the acquisition of all the appropriate molecules. From a health perspective, vegetarianism that cuts out meat, but switches it out with mostly non-nutrient dense, processed foods would likely be better off eating meat and at least getting certain molecules second hand. But if the vegetarian diet includes nutrient dense, whole foods, it will typically be very successful.

      11 votes
      1. lepigpen
        Link Parent
        This should be the end thread comment. Thing is a lot of people with more sedentary lives these days will do just fine with various diets, and meat-less diets can be a healthy alternative that...

        This should be the end thread comment. Thing is a lot of people with more sedentary lives these days will do just fine with various diets, and meat-less diets can be a healthy alternative that works for them because of their lifestyle. I, on the other hand, would have to curate a very specific and potentially tedious to follow meat-less diet to fuel my lifestyle (I don't own a car and if I could surf every day till I die I would). However, a basic dish of chicken and potatoes with about 0 thought and effort put into it can keep me more than ready for whatever I put my body through.

        5 votes
      2. alexandria
        Link Parent
        You left out the dietary minerals and the fatty acids, but ok.

        As long as you get enough of the essential amino acids, it's fine.

        You left out the dietary minerals and the fatty acids, but ok.

        2 votes
    2. [15]
      Death
      Link Parent
      One thing that always bugs me about this idea is that it arose in the context of the 20th and 21st century, a time in which access to, and availability, of meat products in the first world become...

      I have been taught my whole life that vegetarianism == difficult protein acquisition

      One thing that always bugs me about this idea is that it arose in the context of the 20th and 21st century, a time in which access to, and availability, of meat products in the first world become heavily democratized. If eating meat all the time is/was the norm then how did our ancestors survive all these millennia, before we produced cheaply available meat round the year at a massive scale?

      7 votes
      1. [2]
        vakieh
        Link Parent
        The current Western standard of health is wildly different than the standard for all those millennia.

        If eating meat all the time is/was the norm then how did our ancestors survive all these millennia

        The current Western standard of health is wildly different than the standard for all those millennia.

        9 votes
        1. GnomeChompski
          Link Parent
          This comment is unbelievably underrated Being able to see things from outside of the baseline we are born into is not easy, but that ability alone sets us apart.

          This comment is unbelievably underrated

          Being able to see things from outside of the baseline we are born into is not easy, but that ability alone sets us apart.

          2 votes
      2. [10]
        AresOnasis
        Link Parent
        The Standard American Diet is 60-70% plant based. People actually ate more animal products before the 20th Century. Because meat/dairy is the most nutrient dense foods you can eat. They're also...

        The Standard American Diet is 60-70% plant based. People actually ate more animal products before the 20th Century.

        If eating meat all the time is/was the norm then how did our ancestors survive all these millennia, before we produced cheaply available meat round the year at a massive scale?

        Because meat/dairy is the most nutrient dense foods you can eat. They're also the healthiest. It's literally how humans evolved so quickly over other animals. The Fat content, and Fat soluble vitamins fuelled our intelligence increase.

        A single Wooly Mammoth could feed 400 people for months. It would literally be impossible to forage that many calories/nutrients from plant foods.

        Your comment is ironic, because the super high consumption of plant foods would be impossible without the agricultural technology that we have.

        6 votes
        1. [6]
          Douglas
          Link Parent
          Do you have a source for this? I'd read in a couple books (Eating Animals and The China Study) that our meat consumption increased only after the "chicken in every pot" approach that kicked off...

          People actually ate more animal products before the 20th Century.

          Do you have a source for this? I'd read in a couple books (Eating Animals and The China Study) that our meat consumption increased only after the "chicken in every pot" approach that kicked off factory farming. That it was mostly the rich that got to eat a lot of meat, and the poor mostly ate plant-heavy diets.

          8 votes
          1. [4]
            AresOnasis
            Link Parent
            The source comes from actual history, and not some vegan propoganda. The author of that book misrepresents data, and uses Epidemiological studies as if they are facts, when those types of studies...

            The source comes from actual history, and not some vegan propoganda. The author of that book misrepresents data, and uses Epidemiological studies as if they are facts, when those types of studies are only meant to narrow a hypothesis for further study.

            Before agriculture, it was literally impossible for people to be plant based.

            8 votes
            1. [3]
              MimicSquid
              Link Parent
              Man, you're making a ton of unsourced statements there. Would you like to back those up?

              Man, you're making a ton of unsourced statements there. Would you like to back those up?

              7 votes
              1. [2]
                ubergeek
                Link Parent
                That's easy. Let's look to biology. Can you sustain at 3000 cal per day diet, on just plants, when you are also responsible to obtain water from somewhere, and protect your tribe members? Or,...

                That's easy. Let's look to biology.

                Can you sustain at 3000 cal per day diet, on just plants, when you are also responsible to obtain water from somewhere, and protect your tribe members?

                Or, let's ask this: Why do you think we developed/retained canine teeth, and about 3/4 of the teeth in your mouth are best suited for tearing/cutting meat?

                https://www.nature.com/articles/nature16990

                1 vote
                1. MimicSquid
                  Link Parent
                  Your link is a mechanical study examining tooth adaptation to a changing diet. Including meat. Please provide a source for "Before agriculture, it was literally impossible for people to be plant...

                  Your link is a mechanical study examining tooth adaptation to a changing diet. Including meat.

                  Please provide a source for "Before agriculture, it was literally impossible for people to be plant based."

                  8 votes
        2. [3]
          acdw
          Link Parent
          I thought that a lot of brain gains actually came from cooking our food? I'd love to see a source on the Wooly Mammoth statistic.

          I thought that a lot of brain gains actually came from cooking our food? I'd love to see a source on the Wooly Mammoth statistic.

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            AresOnasis
            Link Parent
            Brain gains came from us eating more Fat. Things like bone marrow, brain tissue, etc... Cooking meat actually lowers some of the water soluble vitamin content. However, cooking vegetables actually...

            Brain gains came from us eating more Fat. Things like bone marrow, brain tissue, etc... Cooking meat actually lowers some of the water soluble vitamin content. However, cooking vegetables actually makes them more palatable, lessens the amounts of antinutrients that are in them, particularly the skin. Cooking can also make the nutrients in plant food more bioavailable, but still not even close to animal food.

            http://mammoth.psu.edu/society.html

            given the enormous amount of meat coming from a 6 to 8 ton animal, which would have fed 400 people for several weeks.

            So anywhere from 1-3 months.

            3 votes
            1. acdw
              Link Parent
              Thank you! That article is very informative.

              Thank you! That article is very informative.

      3. ubergeek
        Link Parent
        We ate a crap ton of meat, and during cold months, chewed on salted and preserved meat, but largely were protein deficient for a portion of the year, so we started metabolizing muscle. Then,...

        If eating meat all the time is/was the norm then how did our ancestors survive all these millennia, before we produced cheaply available meat round the year at a massive scale?

        We ate a crap ton of meat, and during cold months, chewed on salted and preserved meat, but largely were protein deficient for a portion of the year, so we started metabolizing muscle.

        Then, spring came, and we started ramping up meat consumption again. And we walked. A lot. To get meat.

        And, so it went, in a very cyclical fashion.

        1 vote
      4. Grand0rbiter
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        You can survive eating a poor diet fine. You probably won't live long, but long enough to have children. To eat the same amount of protein i need to build muscle i would need to eat a lot if not...

        You can survive eating a poor diet fine. You probably won't live long, but long enough to have children.

        To eat the same amount of protein i need to build muscle i would need to eat a lot if not consuming meat, eggs and milk. And with that comes a lot of calories.

        Getting a source of almost pure protein being vegetarian is way harder and expensive.

        Of course we could use vegan protein powder, but we are talking about food. Even vegan protein powder is costly and offers less protein per carb ratio.

        1 vote
    3. [3]
      AresOnasis
      Link Parent
      Bioavailability matters. Animal Protein is way more digestible, and more easily utilised by the body. However, Protein Powders (including Vegan) are more bioavailable than even regular...

      Bioavailability matters.

      Animal Protein is way more digestible, and more easily utilised by the body. However, Protein Powders (including Vegan) are more bioavailable than even regular meat/egg/dairy. But with those Powders, you don't get the same nutritional density, and it's a more processed product.

      Being a "complete" Protein isn't the only thing that matters. The ratios of certain Amino Acids also matter, and animal Protein is just better in that regard.

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        GnomeChompski
        Link Parent
        You're right. It's an easy and fast serve meal for now. The burger and everything it has is the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to bite for bite, dollar for dollar and calorie for...

        You're right. It's an easy and fast serve meal for now. The burger and everything it has is the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to bite for bite, dollar for dollar and calorie for calorie. But the truth is that taking a more balanced and long term look into what our bodies need we see that we can be healthy as a horse too if we eat better. And maybe a more herbivore inclined diet might not be so bad for our individual health, but maybe for all of us as a world too. We really should all take a minute to consider how much of an impact we have on our environment just to sustain our hungers. My personal hell is a world where the Amazon basin becomes a barren desert like the Sahara all for money and food.

        1. ubergeek
          Link Parent
          Even going "rawer"... A deer, which could be taken down in 4 hours on foot, with a spear, could feed the family for a week. To get the legumes, berries, and leaves to do that would take days of...

          Even going "rawer"... A deer, which could be taken down in 4 hours on foot, with a spear, could feed the family for a week.

          To get the legumes, berries, and leaves to do that would take days of foraging.

          2 votes
    4. Staross
      Link Parent
      I searched a bit in the literature and it seems well established. You don't need that much amino-acids so any diet will provide enough. However it seems that you can have issues with vitamin B12...

      I searched a bit in the literature and it seems well established. You don't need that much amino-acids so any diet will provide enough.

      However it seems that you can have issues with vitamin B12 and iron:

      https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1034/j.1600-0609.2002.02798.x

      https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article-abstract/71/2/110/1940320

      The main finding of this review is that vegetarians develop B12 depletion or deficiency regardless of demographic characteristics, place of residency, age, or type of vegetarian diet. Vegetarians should thus take preventive measures to ensure adequate intake of this vitamin, including regular consumption of supplements containing B12.

      4 votes
  4. [2]
    acdw
    Link
    This is awesome! I've been low-key concerned about amino acid since going vegan, but now I don't have to be.

    This is awesome! I've been low-key concerned about amino acid since going vegan, but now I don't have to be.

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. acdw
        Link Parent
        I would like to try a bidet, but not because of the fiber thing --- it just sounds nice :)

        I would like to try a bidet, but not because of the fiber thing --- it just sounds nice :)

        2 votes