Animal Protein vs. Plant Protein: Which Should We Choose?
With today’s health-savvy people and unlimited access to information, people are becoming more and more concerned with what they choose to eat. This goes double in the Western world, where the chase for a high-protein/low-carb diet is reaching its peak.
Every fitness trainer will agree that protein nutrition is crucial for every diet – but what is really debated is the actual source of said protein. Should we go for protein from plant sources or should we go for animal protein? Which one will benefit us the most? Do vegetables have protein or are they just trying to fool us into buying their stuff?
What are proteins made of
Proteins are basically sources of amino acids – or more specifically, essential amino acids – that our bodies need to function properly, but can’t produce by themselves. As a result, we have to take those amino acids from whatever other sources we can get our hands on – and that will usually include plants and animals.
Once in our body, that protein will act as a raw material to create new ligaments, muscles, hair, tendons, organs, skin and various other enzymes and organs that we need to lead a healthy life.
We need twenty-one amino acids to be at our peak – but as sad as it is, our body can only produce twelve of those; which means that we have to take the other nine from the food that we eat.
What is a “Good Protein”?
The amino acid profile of a protein tells us exactly what categories of amino acids a protein contains. Some proteins will have more amino acids, while other proteins will have fewer.
And essentially, to lead a better life – and increase that muscle growth – we will need proteins that have a higher amount of protein (especially the one going under the name of leucine).
The quality of the protein is also crucial. Some are more easily digested, processed and absorbed by the body while others take a while to be broken down. Needless to say, the faster the protein absorption rate is, the more we can call it the “better protein.”
Types of protein in food
There are basically two different types of protein to consider: plants vs. animals. While it would be ideal to get your protein from both sources, it is sometimes impossible – most of the time because the individual is following a vegan diet.
Protein can be found in both animals and vegetables, but if someone is a vegan or has a medical interdiction to eat animal products, they have to find sources of protein other than meat.
In a way, both of them have their advantages and disadvantages. So, meat vs. vegetables: which ones will win?
What Is Plant Protein?
Plant protein is, as the name says, a protein that you can get by consuming plant foods. You can get this protein from foods such a quinoa, soy, whole grains, legumes, and some seeds and nuts.
Quinoa and soy are the only ones that are considered as “complete proteins” since they have all the amino acids that we can get from animal protein. The others do have a protein mass, but some of the nine amino acids that we need may be missing.
What about fat, though? Is cholesterol found in plants? The answer is: yes – but not that much. Various nutritional reports show that people following a vegan diet feature a lower body weight index, a lower blood pressure, and a lower cholesterol level compared to non-vegan people.
While not all plants are complete proteins, you can still get your fill by combining several plants until you get your nines. Plants have a lower-calorie level, so the chance of you gaining weight (unless you gorge on the food) is slim.
What is Animal Protein?
Animal protein is a protein that can be found in ingredients such as meat, eggs, poultry, and chicken, but also dairy products and seafood. Animal protein, regardless of the source, is usually regarded as “complete proteins,” giving you everything you need for your body mass to develop as it should.
Animal protein barely contains any carbs – the only exception being dairy – which means that the only calories you take in will be the actual protein. Plus, certain protein-rich foods such as egg yolk, red meat, and dark meat poultry are high in iron and zinc, making the protein easier to absorb.
Consider the Drawbacks
There are disadvantages for both kinds of proteins – which is why some people prefer one over the other.
For instance, proteins from animal sources are also very likely to contain high amounts of saturated fats along with dietary cholesterol. While there are some nutrients only found in meat, if consumed in excess, this may increase your chances of getting a heart disease.
And that’s simply because, as we mentioned, if you consume animal protein, getting high cholesterol levels is a serious concern which may lead to nasty problems
On the other hand, plant protein is not as high in fats as animal protein. To answer your question “do plants have cholesterol,” here is your answer: yes, they do. But in much lower amounts. Fats are found in animal products and some vegetables, but the content is smaller in plants – which is why there’s no chance of getting high cholesterol levels.
Another issue is that soy protein is high in isoflavones, which has a similar structure to the hormone estrogen. As a result, if you are a woman trying to conceive a child and can’t seem to succeed, you may want to check your plant protein intake.
Meat Proteins vs. Plant Proteins: The Results
Both types of protein serve their purpose. Due to their protein bioavailability, they function differently but provide the same effect. If you have high cholesterol levels, then you may want to go for plant protein.
On the other hand, if your body lacks a lot of nutrients, you may want to go for a food source that contains all the essential amino acids. Therefore, when it comes to animal vs. plant, the result is a tie that depends on personal preferences.