Did you know that human body is made up of 20% protein?
You can get protein from many food resources. Every part in the human body from muscles to organs consists of protein as protein helps to build, maintain and repair the body’s structure. Since the human body does not store protein in any ways you need to add protein to your everyday diet in one way or the other. Protein is available to you through different food resources that include plants and animals.
Human body needs a balance of 22 amino acids; nine of these acids cannot be produced by the body. A complete protein source provides you with these nine acids as proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids.
While some believe protein is what matters whether it is from plants or animals, many claim that plant protein is a much better source. Plant protein is now preferred more than animal proteins as it provides you with many health benefits and improves your lifestyle increasing the chance of living a disease free and longer life.
So let us take a look on the different characteristics of both the proteins and choose which one is better.
Benefits of animal protein
Animal products contains a good balance of amino acids while plant proteins are mostly low in methionine, tryptophan, lycine and isoleucine.
A complete protein source is one that contains the nine essential acids, Animal products are a complete source of protein. Amino acids are the basic unit of proteins, while most of the plants do not contain all the essential acids and are thus called incomplete sources of protein animal proteins are complete sources of protein and contains all nine essential acids.
A few animal products that are complete sources of protein are:
- Red meats
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, etc.
- Poultry sources such as chickens, turkeys, and quails.
- Less common sources of meat like boars, hares, and horses.
A few plant based sources that are rich in protein are grains, lentils, beans, legumes, nuts, soy, hemp, peas, rice and certain fruits such as avocados. Animal products contain other beneficial nutrients which plant proteins might be lacking. Considering the fact that there still is a plenty of nutrients found in plant proteins that are no available in animal products. But since proteins are not found in isolation animal products are richer in other nutrients such as:
- Vitamin D – Some plants may contain vitamin D but that found in animal products such as eggs, dairy and oily fish is considered better.
- Vitamin B12 – This vitamin is mainly found in fish, meat, poultry and dairy products as a result of which vegetarians mostly suffer deficiency of vitamin B12.
- DHA- Docosahexaenoic acid that is hard to find in plant based foods is really good for brain health and contains essential omega-3 fat.
- Heme-iron- Absorbed better by the body, heme-iron typically found in meats especially red meat.
- Zinc- Zinc found in animal protein sources, such as pork, beef and lamb, gets much easily absorbed by the human body.
Having discussed the benefits of animal proteins, let us move on to the benefits we get from plant proteins that seem to overshadow those provided by animal based product.
Phytonutrients or plant specific nutrients and some antioxidants are found only in plant based food.
Fiber is an essential factor for human body. Animal based factor do not contain fibers that are good to keep the digestive system in check. Plant proteins are rich in fiber.
Vegetarian diets rich in plant proteins have many health benefits; studies reveal that vegetarians tend to have lower cholesterol, lower body weight and lower levels of blood pressure.
People following plant based diets have a lower risk of heart diseases as the EcoAtkins trial discovered that a low-carb, plant based diet helps lower the cholesterol levels and blood pressure protein , while a small study showed that replacing red meat with legumes reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
Some plant-based foods are also complete sources of protein, like buckwheat and quinoa. But it is important to mix the protein sources to get essential amino acids for vegetarians and vegans.
Protein intake is important for athletes and those wanting to increase muscle mass as protein repairs and builds muscle. However most people turn to whey for these benefits, research suggests that rice protein isolate can provide similar benefits. Hence it is recommended to eat a combination of plant based proteins after exercise.
Observational studies suggest that plant proteins like beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas are good for weight management as they increase the feeling of fullness when consumed daily also eating nuts can help in weight loss.
It is also believed that people following plant based diets are more health conscious as compared to those going for animal products. Eating plant based diets may even improve your overall health.
Why people are going for plant based proteins over animal based?
Despite the different benefits that both plant and animal based proteins provide there are certain drawbacks of animal based proteins that might make you choose plant proteins over animal products.
Studies show that red meat which is an excellent source of protein increases the risk of heart diseases, stroke and untimely death. However there is a dilemma as according to a few studies the culprit is processed meat, while unprocessed meat could have no such effects.
A review of about 20 studies suggests that consumption of processed red meat can increases the chances of diabetes and heart diseases However a 2016 meta-analysis concludes that animal protein especially processed red meat increases the chance of dying from cardiovascular diseases.
A person may want to avoid animal protein as it contains saturated fats and much higher levels of cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol is linked to cardiovascular diseases and the institute of medicines suggests limiting dietary cholesterol.
It is easy to lose weight and maintain a lean body with a vegetarian diet while meat-based diet plans might make it much difficult.
A non-meat diet can decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome, which includes type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Experts even suggest that a plant based diets to be more sustainable then animal based diets as they are less harmful to the environment.
Protein being a necessity for human body is important to be included in our diets daily. While both plant and animal proteins provide you with a good number of advantages. It is important to weigh the different factors and decide the healthier source. For a better health, it is important to lessen or stop the consumption of processed meat and go for plant products that are rich in protein.
For better results you may include a variety of food items to your diet to make sure that you meet the daily protein requirements of the body and to provide the all essential amino acids.
Plant based diets are getting more preference now as they as proving to be a much healthier option, animal products are getting associated with many diseases which may even risk your life.