Protein is a very important nutrient to our body. In fact, our bodies are made up of 20% protein. We don’t naturally store protein, so we need to get them from outside sources, meaning in the food we eat.
Some people may tell you that it doesn’t matter where you get the protein, whether it is from animals or plants. Meanwhile, there are some claims that plant protein is the better source. So, which one is true?
The Science behind the Protein Battle
When we eat protein, our bodies break the nutrient down into amino acids, which are used by the body in almost every metabolic function. Proteins vary depending on the amino acids they have. There are 20 types of amino acids (both essential and non-essential) that the body uses for protein building. Animal proteins have a good balance of every kind of amino acid there is, but some plant proteins have fewer levels of certain amino acids, particularly tryptophan, lysine, isoleucine, and methionine.
Animal Protein vs. Plant Protein
For optimal health, you need to supply your body with all the essential amino acids in the correct amounts. There are several sources of animal protein and the following are considered complete protein sources of essential amino acids:
- Dairy products
Meanwhile, protein plant sources are plenty as well, although they are considered incomplete:
There are some who claim that soy protein is “complete,” but science has proven only two are found in small amounts.
Which to Choose
The truth is animal protein has high-quality protein and these products even have nutrients that don’t appear in plant foods, such as vitamin B12, D, DHA, and zinc. But this doesn’t mean animal protein is superior, especially considering red meat – an excellent source of high-quality protein –can cause diseases. Eating red meat increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and early death.
On the other hand, plant protein offers a ton of benefits. Some vegans and vegetarians use plants to get the protein they need, even though the sources aren’t complete. Supplements are needed, but plant protein can contribute to lower body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. It may also lead to lower risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and other chronic diseases.
Experts advise that you should have a diet that is low in processed or red meats, but is rich in plant protein. Don’t forget to add animal protein sources, including poultry and grass-fed meat.