Animal Protein versus Plant Protein: What’s the Difference?
Protein is a macronutrient that exists throughout the human body. It plays an important part in different functions of our system, serving as building blocks to repair tissues and source of developing hormones, enzymes, among other things. Protein is made up of amino acids, and there are 22 types of these amino acids that our body needs to function properly. But our body cannot produce all of these amino acids. This is why it is important that we get enough protein in what we eat. It is common knowledge that most protein that we eat comes from animals, but how about the protein that comes from plants? Is plant protein enough to give us the amino acids our body needs? How are animal protein and plant protein different from each other? It is important to understand the differences between plant and animal proteins to ensure a healthy diet.
How much protein does our body need?
Before we compare the protein levels of animals and plants, it is important to know how much protein our body needs. According to the National Academy of Medicine, an adult should get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. This means that there should be:
- 50 grams of protein each day for a 140-pound person
- 70 grams of protein each day for a 200-pound person
Animal protein is almost similar to the protein in our body. Rich sources of these animal proteins come from meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy. They contain the essential amino acids our body needs to function correctly. But the problem with animal sources is that they do not only contain protein but also other ingredients that do more harm to the body than good. For example, eating red meat leads to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and early death. To further illustrate:
- You may get 33 grams of protein from a 4-ounce sirloin steak but it also comes with about 5 grams of saturated fat.
- A ham steak has 22 grams of protein with only 1.6 grams of saturated fat, but it’s loaded with 1,500 milligrams of sodium.
Another disadvantage of getting our protein needs from animals is the production of animal-based foods that have higher greenhouse gas emissions. This includes dairy and, of course, red meat products. Just to give you an idea, a pound of lamb generates 30 times more greenhouse gases than making a pound of lentils. According to the Journal of Industrial Ecology, 36% of all food-related GHG emissions in the U.S. come from beef.
There are plants that can be excellent sources of protein. The good news is that plant protein comes with fewer calories and less potentially harmful effects on our health compared to animal products. Also, plants do not contribute to the worsening greenhouse gas problem in our environment.
The plant protein of quinoa has all the 9 essential amino acids that we need. To get all the missing amino acids, there are other plants where we can get our protein needs like
- Edamame: 18.46 grams of protein per cup
- Lentils: 17.86 grams of protein per cup
- Pinto beans: 15.41 grams of protein per cup
- Chickpeas: 14.53 grams of protein per cup
- Mung beans: 14.18 grams of protein per cup
These are just a few examples. There are more options from the plant kingdom to mix and match for our daily protein intake. With a plant-based diet, we are at a lower risk of certain diseases such as cancer, hypertension, obesity, and heart diseases.
The Plant Protein Package
It is important that we get enough protein to fuel our body and to give us the amino acids that we need in repairing tissues. But not all excellent sources of protein are good for our health since we also take different fats, sodium, and more. The plant protein package gives us a healthier option by having an assortment of plant-based food in our meals. By choosing the plant protein package, we also contribute to the health of our environment.