Animal Vs Plant Protein – Which one is better for your health
Animal Vs Plant Protein | Protein is an essential micronutrient that we require, along with fats and carbohydrates. With more people raving over the benefits of a plant-based diet and animal-free alternatives, plant protein is claiming a special place in the kitchen these days.
You might have some pondering questions – Which alternative is a healthier option – animal or plant protein ? How to understand its impact on the body? All the essential facts and information will be covered in this article.
Like any other versus question in Nutrition Science, the answer is a bit complicated, requiring us to introspect various factors and conditions. This article covers everything that you need to know about animal protein and plant protein.
Before we understand the difference between the two, let’s look into the key aspects of protein and understand it.
How does protein impact your body?
Protein plays a significant role in building and repairing the tissues, creating hormones, enzymes and other substances that are vital for a healthy body. It is also essential for other functions like blood clotting and hormone development. This is very important stuff!
At a micro level, the proteins are made of hundreds of tiny compounds called amino acids, linked together. Whenever the protein is consumed, it breaks down into singular protein and recombines as necessary to carry different vital functions in the body.
Coming back to the animal vs plant protein – they might look and taste a lot different, but the basic protein units are the same. So, by the time you have chewed and consumed the protein, it doesn’t matter where it came from.
But the difference lies with complete versus incomplete protein
Amino acids are available in 20 different kinds. It is further categorised into 2 groups – essential and non-essential. The nine essential amino acids are the ones that the body cannot generate on its own and requires to be sourced from the food we eat. However, the rest of the non-essential amino acids can be produced by the body on its own.
The source that provides an adequate portion of nine essential amino acids, wins the title of a complete source of protein. If one or more essential amino acids is low, the source is concluded as incomplete.
This is where the actual difference between the plant and animal protein can be observed. Most of the animal-based proteins are complete proteins. This also includes bone muscle tissue from animals. Animal products have the highest quality of proteins.
On the other hand, plant-based protein sources like beans, peas, seeds – are mostly incomplete, Only a handful of plant protein sources are complete – soy products and quinoa.
However, this difference of incomplete and complete protein source is not a greater deal as it might seem. This distinction can be quite misleading, according to a paper published on vegetarian diets.
Most of the plant-based protein sources lack one or two essential amino acids. Because they lack different amino acids, they are complementary – which means that if you have two different varieties of plant proteins together, it forms a complete protein source.
For instance, grains have low amounts of lysine and nuts have low methionine. But if you have them together, you benefit from all the essential amino acids.
Now let’s look at the big picture – How much protein do you get to use?
Till now, we were looking at a microscopic level – in terms of amino acids composition. Let’s look into the amount of protein proportion offered by each source and how well does our body absorb it.
Animal proteins have a large concentrated proportion of complete proteins, but that’s not always the case. Different sources of plant and animal-based proteins have distinct proportions and concentrations of protein.
Another thing that you might want to consider is how much of the protein consumed is absorbed by the body. The rate of protein synthesis is low in plant-based proteins compared to the animal-based alternative.
A low amount of amino acids from plant sources get digested for vital body activities. This gives animal-based sources an edge with muscle repair and body development. This is because animal-based protein has specific amino acid – leucine – which is key to muscle protein synthesis.
But here’s a catch. It is not clear how much the rate of protein synthesis ultimately matters. This does not allude to the fact that vegetarians don’t get enough protein. Even if animal protein is technically better utilised than plant-protein, an average vegetarian person who regularly exercises gets enough protein and doesn’t make a significant difference.
What’s more to animal vs plant protein?
Did you ever wonder where the proteins come from ?
Let’s look into other factors apart from molecular composition and protein concentration. Both animal and plant-based protein sources have their pros and cons.
- Richest natural source of vital micronutrients. For instance, vitamin D is concentrated in eggs and ocean fish like salmon and tuna.
- They are the only natural source of vitamin B12.
- They are virtually carb-free
- Some studies have linked red meat consumption to increased chances of heart disease and early death.
- Processed red meat can lead to a stroke or heart issues.
- It contains saturated fats.
- Fibre is one of the biggest advantages and the only natural source available.
- Plants also offer a variety of phytochemicals – bioactive compounds like flavonoids and polyphenols that are known to lower chronic diseases.
- They contain more carbs, compared to animal alternatives.
- They are not as impactful as an animal alternative.
Different bodies have different nutritional requirements. One should choose the nutritional source of protein based on their health and needs. Considering that you are completely healthy and an individual with average nutritional needs, we recommend you to choose plant-based protein sources.
There is a decent amount of research that states that red meat consumption can lead to negative health outcomes. Some people switch to plant-based protein sources because the industry ill-treated animals and their impact on our environment.
However, if you are someone allergic to soybeans or other common plant-based protein sources, you might find it easy to get proteins from animal foods.
There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to plant and animal-based protein. It is not rigid and one can be flexible as to what their body needs.