My Protein's Better Than Your Protein!

My Protein's Better Than Your Protein!
Plant Protein VS. Animal Protein

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the battle of the century! In the red corner Animal protein! And in the blue corner Plant protein! Who will take the title?

It's an age-old question. Which is better? Animal protein or plant protein? To be able to answer the question, you first need to understand what protein actually is. We all know we need it. We know we get it by consuming certain foods. But what is it, where does it come from and why do we need it? Oxford University Press describes protein as "any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds which have large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms, especially as structural components of body tissues such as muscle, hair, etc., and as enzymes and antibodies". 20% of the human body is made up of protein. Despite this large percentage, the human body doesn't actually store protein. It is therefore essential that we consume an ample amount of daily protein to keep us at the top of our game.

So, what is the best source of protein? Many people claim that plant protein and animal protein offer the same levels and therefore the same benefits. Others argue that one is clearly superior to the other.

All proteins are made up of amino acids. The level and type of each amino acid varies depending on the type of food. Amino acids are split into two categories - essential and non-essential. The human body produces non-essential amino acids, but cannot produce essential amino acids, these are what we need to consume through our diet. For our bodies to function at their best we need all essential amino acids in the right proportions.

Animal proteins are the closest proteins to those found in the human body and are often referred to as complete proteins due to their "complete" level (or human level) of essential amino acids.  These proteins can be found in foods such as fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. You might think, as a result of this simple, "complete" fact, that animal protein must be the way to go. On the contrary, plant proteins also have their benefits. While not "complete" like their animal counterpart, when foods like beans, lentils and peanuts are combined with wheat, rice or corn, a complete protein is formed.

While we may have two forms of complete protein, the question of which is better is still apparent. Studies have shown that plant protein can lower the risk of heart disease [1], reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes [2] and help to maintain a healthy weight [3].

Animal protein is not all bad either. While linked to a number of health concerns [4] it is more abundant in some nutrients like vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Studies have linked eggs (a rich source of animal protein) to weight loss [5] and it has also been found that regular consumption of fish can lower the risk of heart attacks and stroke [6].

The battle between animal and plant protein is clearly not a cut and dry topic. Both have their benefits. Both have downfalls. Regardless of studies, what it comes down to is how your own body reacts to certain forms of protein. Of course, balance is always key, but deciding what is best for you and what will help your body maintain optimum health is something that only you can feel and only you can decide.

So, in this battle, you are the judge. Only you can decide who wins. In the meantime the debate will inevitably live on until some sort of definitive evidence is found proving once and for all that one is better than the other.



[1] Adv Nutr. 2015 Nov 13;6(6):712-28. doi: 10.3945/an.115.009654. Print 2015 Nov.
Plant protein and animal proteins: do they differentially affect cardiovascular disease risk?

[2] . 2017 May; 14(5): 342–354.
A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes

[3]  2014Aug;22(8):1773-80.doi:10.1002/oby.20782.Epub2014 May13.
Dietary pulses, satiety and food intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis of acute feeding trials.

[4]  2012 Apr 9;172(7):555-63. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2287. Epub 2012 Mar 12.
Red meat consumption and mortality: results from 2 prospective cohort studies.

[5]  2008 Oct;32(10):1545-51. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.130. Epub 2008 Aug 5.
Egg breakfast enhances weight loss.

[6]  2014 Sep;5(9):2004-19. doi: 10.1039/c4fo00393d.
Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: epidemiology and effects on cardiometabolic risk factors.




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