Plant vs. animal protein
One of the main differences between plant and animal proteins involves their amino acid contents.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When the body digests the proteins in food, it breaks them down into amino acids.
The body may need different amino acids at different times. Many people believe that the diet should include complete sources of protein, which contain all nine essential amino acids.
Some animal products are complete sources of protein, such as:
- various types of eggs
- dairy products, such as cheese, milk, and whey
- red meat from cows, bison, and deer
- poultry from sources such as chickens, turkeys, and quails
- meat from less common sources, including boars, hares, and horses
Most plant proteins are incomplete, which means that they are missing at least one of the essential amino acids.
However, some plant-based foods, such as quinoa and buckwheat, are complete sources of protein.
It is important for vegetarians and vegans to mix their protein sources and ensure that they are getting all of the essential amino acids.
Also, keep in mind that some sources of plant protein may take longer for the body to digest and use.
The following are examples of plant-based foods rich in protein:
- certain fruits, such as avocados
Many other nuts, grains, and vegetables also contain high amounts of protein.
Which is better for health
Plant-based foods contain fibre which is beneficial to the digestive system.
When choosing between plant and animal sources of protein, it is important to factor in the other nutrients that the foods provide.
Certain sources of animal protein can contain high levels of heme iron and vitamin B-12, while some plant-based foods lack these nutrients.
On the other hand, plant-specific nutrients, called phytonutrients, and some antioxidantsare absent from sources of animal protein.
Animal products contain saturated fat and higher levels of cholesterol than sources of plant protein. A person m ay wish to avoid animal products for these reasons.
Many used to believe that dietary cholesterol was associated with cardiovascular disease. Recent evidence shows no significant link.
Fiber is another important factor. Only plant-based foods contain fiber, which helps to keep the digestive system balanced.
Eating more plant protein may also improve a person’s overall health.
Results of a 2016 meta-analysis suggested that eating more animal protein, especially that derived from processed red meat, may increase the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
However, researchers noted that they only found the link between animal protein and cardiovascular disease in people with at least one lifestyle-related risk factor, such as smoking, heavy alcohol intake, or being overweight or obese.
The results also indicated that eating more plant protein may help to reduce this risk and others.
In general, the best way to cover a person’s dietary needs is to eat a wide variety of foods.