Everything you need to know about Plant and Animal Protein
Plant-based diets have been on the rise over the last decade, with plant protein being a main source of interest and concern. While plant protein has typically been thought to be inferior to animal protein, assertions that plant protein is just as nutritious, if not more, than animal protein continue to be made, but what does the evidence say? Here's all you need to know about the nutritional differences between plant protein and animal protein.
The difference between animal and plant protein
Protein is one of three important macronutrients, along with carbs and fat, that are found in meals. Proteins are made up of smaller molecules called amino acids, which are found in every cell of the body and are considered the building blocks of life. Chemical bonds connect amino acids to create chains, which serve a variety of activities in the human body, including enzyme, hormone, and neurotransmitter creation; cellular structure, growth, and repair; immune system support, and nutrient transportation.
The fundamental distinction between plant protein and animal protein is the amino acid makeup. Essential, nonessential, and conditionally essential amino acids are the three types of amino acids.
Because essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body, they must be obtained from food. Histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine are among them.
Nonessential amino acids can be generated by the body from essential amino acids or in the regular breakdown of proteins. Alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine are examples.
Except in times of illness or stress, conditionally necessary amino acids are not required. Arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine are examples.
In general, animal protein contains all required amino acids, but plant protein does not. It is for this reason that animal proteins are often considered full proteins and plant proteins are typically considered incomplete proteins.
Understanding Animal Protein
Animal proteins include all animal foods and byproducts such as eggs and dairy. Because they include all nine essential amino acids, animal proteins are known as complete protein sources. Animal protein sources include:
- Red meat
- Seafood and fish
- Poultry & Eggs
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese and other dairy products.
Understanding Plant Protein
Plant proteins are plants that have a significant amount of protein. While many plants contain protein, certain plants have higher levels or more concentrated concentrations of protein. Plant proteins often include more carbohydrate or fat per gramme than protein, but when compared to other plants, they are comparatively high in protein and so classified plant proteins. Plant proteins, often known as vegan proteins or vegetarian proteins, are considered incomplete proteins since they lack all nine essential amino acids. Plant protein sources include:
- Tofu, tempeh, and edamame are examples of soy products.
- Beans & Lentils
- Whole grains
- Nuts & Seeds
Some plant proteins, such as soybeans, tofu, and quinoa, contain all essential amino acids and are thus called complete protein sources; nevertheless, the ratio of their amino acid profile is not considered ideal. While these plant proteins include all essential amino acids, they have reduced quantities of specific amino acids, particularly leucine.
Combining complementing plant proteins is typically advocated in plant-based diets for this reason. While it was originally thought best practice to combine complementary plant proteins at each meal to balance amino acid ratios, it is now widely agreed that it is best to consider amino acid consumption in the total diet throughout the day.
How does Animal Protein benefit you?
Animal proteins are termed complete proteins because they include all required amino acids and are hence frequently considered superior protein sources when compared to plant sources.
Better Digestibility and Bioavailability: Animal protein sources have higher digestibility and bioavailability than plant protein sources, according to both the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) and the digestible indispensable amino acid score (DIAAS), which are used to assess a dietary protein's ability to meet the body's amino acid requirements.
Animal amino acids survive digestion better than plant amino acids, resulting in greater bioavailability.
Animal protein sources contain more protein per gramme and calorie per calorie. This means that, on average, less calories are required to achieve equivalent or higher amounts of protein intake than plants.
Animal proteins, in addition to possessing all required amino acids, are better providers of key vitamins and minerals, notably vitamin B12, vitamin D, DHA, iron, and zinc.
Downfalls of animal protein
More Expensive: When compared to plant proteins, animal protein is more expensive per serving.
Also, processed forms of animal protein, notably processed red meats such as hot dogs and corned beef, have been related to negative health impacts such as heart disease and cancer.
However, the direct cause is still being debated in the scientific community, and while unprocessed red meat has shown lower correlations, no associations to leaner animal protein sources such as chicken or seafood have been found.
How does plant protein benefit you?
Plant Foods and Health: A plant-based diet has been linked to a variety of health benefits, including lower cholesterol levels, a lower risk of heart disease, and improved heart health. While you can eat animal proteins while also eating a plant-based diet, adding more plants to your diet is generally advantageous to your overall health.
Plant proteins are often less expensive when compared to animal proteins. While 100 grams of beans, lentils, or tofu are often less expensive than 100 grams of chicken or beef, they offer less protein overall.
Plant protein sources are often regarded as more adaptable components, as they may be used in both savoury and sweet meals, from vegetarian eggs to curries to dips and sauce, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Downfalls of plant protein
Most plant proteins do not include all required amino acids, and those that do contain them do not contain them in optimal ratios; nonetheless, by eating a variety of plant proteins, an individual can likely ingest all essential amino acids.
Lower Protein Concentrations: Plant proteins are less concentrated in protein per gramme than animal sources, requiring more calories to achieve the same protein consumption as animal sources.
Plants contain antinutrients, which interfere with the digestion and absorption of protein, vitamins, and minerals. This natural defence mechanism, which includes phytates, lectins, oxalates, tannins, glucosinolates, and saponins, helps to protect the plant against illnesses or ingestion by animals and insects.
When phytic acid binds to zinc, for example, it forms an unabsorbable compound that your body cannot utilise. While these antinutrients can be eliminated or denatured in most situations through proper preparation, they are not found in animal proteins.
Some vital micronutrients are just absent from the plant kingdom. There are no viable plant protein sources of vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, vitamin K, creatine, or DHA.In reality, the only source of K2 from plants is fermented vegetables like natto, whereas it's abundant in animal diets, with the biggest concentrations found in liver and dairy products. Furthermore, taurine is a sulphur molecule found solely in animal-based meals.
The primary distinction between plant proteins and animal proteins is the amino acid composition; animal protein sources are considered complete proteins because they contain all essential amino acids, whereas plant protein sources are considered incomplete proteins because they lack certain amino acids.
While animal proteins have a tiny edge over plant proteins in that they contain critical nutrients not available in plant meals and provide a slight anabolic advantage for muscle building, both plant and animal proteins have advantages and disadvantages. Generally, all whole food protein sources are nutrient-dense, so rather than choosing one or the other, focus on including both plant and animal proteins into a healthy, well-balanced diet.