vegetable protein

Disclaimer: this is not a rah rah meat post. I love meat. I also love vegetables.

So, I normally don't bite on stupid facebook memes, but this one is so egregiously stupid I had to comment -- especially because nutrition is a pet topic/peeve of mine. So this image is floating around facebook:


So, you don't have to be a nutritional expert to get the impression these numbers are ... amiss. Cucumbers? 24% protein? So, I can't pretend to know where they got these numbers, but the numbers for beef, chicken and egg are accurate, as a calculation of % protein by weight. So I fixed the image using that as a calculation for the vegetables:


These are a little off in some regards -- I used small gram amounts, so some figures yielded 0g when really there's some fractional amount. Also, to be fair, using percentages by weight doesn't really mean anything. What you should really look at is percentage by kilocalorie content. So here's the real version fixed:


Spinach is awesome. This is why I eat bales of it. I think my favorites on this list are cucumbers, which have hardly any protein at all. That, and parsley. Listing parsley on a protein content infographic is hilarious. I would love to watch someone eat enough parsley to get their RDA of protein.

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  • RachelW

    Values can all be looked up at – easiest way to understand as a percent is to look at the value in grams per 100g column, which yields 12.58g/100g (or 12.58%) for a boiled egg, 28.5 for beef tenderloin, 2.82 for broccoli, and .65 for cucumber (w peel).

  • Susrs


  • Kate O’Neill

    I see how they arrived at the 49% for spinach. In the USDA listing for raw spinach (, it shows that there are 23 kilocalories of energy and 2.86 g of protein per 100 g. Since the energy density of protein is 4 kcal/gram, they would have multiplied 2.86 g of protein by 4 kcal/gram to get 11.44 kilocalories, and then divided that into 23 kilocalories to get .497, or 49.7% of the kilocalories represented are from protein.

    Having said that, though, I haven’t validated the rest of the list, so I cannot vouch for the relative percentages.

    • cwage

      Yeah, spinach is the only one that was close.. mmm, spinach.

      • Kate O’Neill

        Well, some of the other ones aren’t quite as egregiously wrong as you’re depicting, though, at least by this measure. Using this approach, cucumbers with peel come in about 17.3%. Without peel, about 19.7%. I don’t know how they arrived at 24%, but by this measure their protein content is not 0%.

  • fancycwabs

    Maybe it’s “percent protein per calorie” instead of “percent protein per unit of weight” in which case cucumbers run about 20%. It also explains why they picked low-carb and low-fat vegetables instead of traditional “high-protein” vegetables, like legumes.