My friend Regina Wilshire, author the the amazing blog Weight of the Evidence, posted some interesting numbers that I wanted to share with you all. They elucidate the difference between the protein and amino acid profiles of meat and veggies. Quite an eye opener.
I have a friend who is a vegetarian (however he eats eggs and fish so how this makes him a vegetarian I never understood) who is always arguing with me that he gets all the protein and AA he needs from his combinations of rice and beans. I have begged to differ with him on many occasions but never stopped to do the homework that Regina did. Take a look (sorry that its a bit choppy):
With 110g of 85% protein/15% fat of ground beef + 1 egg, a 70kg individual meets his needed amino acid requirements. The reason for the 10g additional beef is that the Leucine was less than needed. For both the egg and the beef, calories to achieve the necessary amino acids (as per World Health Organization/FAO) is 353 calories.
Need Amino Acid Egg Beef Total
0.280 Tryptophan 0.83 0.157 0.987
1.050 Threonine 0.277 1.181 1.458
1.400 Isoleucine 0.335 1.346 1.681
2.730 Leucine 0.541 2.377 2.702
2.100 Lycine 0.455 2.525 2.918
1.050 Methionine 0.190 0.785
Cyctine 0.136 0.314 1.425
1.820 Valine 0.428 1.497 1.925
1.750 Phenylaline 0.339 1.187
Tyrocine 0.249 0.939 2.714
Contrast this to rice + beans. To meet the same amino acid needs with rice and beans, one needs to consume 350g of each, with a calorie load of 956 calories. In the case of the rice & beans, more was needed to achieve the methionine and cystine levels needed.
Need Amino Acid Rice Beans Total
0.280 Tryptophan 0.098 0.378 0.476
1.050 Threonine 0.297 1.158 1.455
1.400 Isoleucine 0.361 1.491 1.852
2.730 Leucine 0.689 2.677 3.366
2.100 Lycine 0.301 2.205 2.506
1.050 Methionine 0.196 0.409
Cyctine 0.172 0.294 1.071
1.820 Valine 0.508 1.816 2.324
1.750 Phenylaline 0.445 1.858
Tyrocine 0.280 0.745 3.328
As you can see, the profiles are different - they each meet the amino acids needed for a 70kg person, but the calories needed are vastly different, with the second having absolute zero B12 and vitamin D.
So there you have it. Most vegetarians are more than likely walking around in a mild or perhaps severe state of nutritional deficiency unless they are taking supplements. Even then it is not the same as getting your needs via real foods.