Guest Author - Cara Newman
There are many misconceptions and much confusion when it comes to choosing animal protein vs plant protein. Which one is better? What are the main nutritional differences between animal protein vs plant protein?
Here are the 3 facts you must know:
Animal Protein vs Plant Protein Fact #1:
Animal Protein Offers Complete Protein “By Itself”
What is complete protein? Complete protein is a protein source that contains sufficient proportion of all of the essential amino acids for human needs. “Sufficient proportion” is the key here.
Some protein sources may contain all essential amino acids, but they are not considered complete protein. These protein sources may contain one essential amino acid in a much lower proportion compared to others or they simply may lack one or more essential amino acids. Most plant protein falls into this category.
What are the essential amino acids? Essential amino acids for human needs include: luecine, lysine, phenylalanine, valine, threonine, isoleucine, methionine, & tryptophan.
If you choose to mainly rely on vegetarian sources of protein when choosing between animal protein vs plant protein, you can still receive good amount of complete protein with some work. The way to accomplish it is to consume “large varieties” of plant protein. When it comes to vegetarian or plant protein, remember: “variety, variety, variety!”
Make sure you know which amino acids are ample in the specific plant protein that you consume. Then, eat many different types of plant protein to make sure that you get adequate proportion of essential amino acids. Protein combination theory such as combing rice with beans at the same meal is now replaced with “the importance of variety eating”. This approach takes a bit of research and planning. However, it is essential for vegetarians. Even though it is time consuming, the research and planning is absolutely the must for vegans who choose to not consume any animal protein such as eggs or dairy products.
Animal Protein vs Plant Protein Fact #2:
Choose Natural Sources As Much As Possible
Regardless what you choose as your main protein source when it comes to animal protein vs plant protein, choose natural or organic sources as much as possible.
For example, organic soy and organic tofu should always be the choice over regular soy products when available. Modern agriculture has changed the quality our food choices tremendously. On the other side, free-range, organic chicken and wild salmon are great choices of animal protein.
Animal Protein vs Plant Protein Fact #3:
Not All Fat Are Created Equal
When it comes to fat content and the proportion of saturated fat vs. unsaturated fat, plant protein definitely leads in this arena… but there is a little catch that we will discuss later.
Due to the large proportion of saturated fat in red meat, I do not recommend consuming red meat in a healthy diet. With that said, I can imagine the secret agents from the American Beef Council knocking on my front door and say… “Excuse me, Ms. Newman. We need to have a word with you…” Sorry pal, I have to stay true to my beliefs, the researches I’ve read and my personal experience in red meat consumption. In addition, I have seen many others improving their health after eliminating red meat from their diet.
If you worry about heart health and maintaining a healthy cholesterol level, lean, free-range, organic chicken is a great choice of animal protein. Remember to leave the skin!
Another superior animal protein is wild salmon. Wild salmon contains abundant omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids offer many great health benefits such as helping reduce inflammation, lowering cholesterol levels, preventing blood clots…etc. However, most salmon available in our stores today are unhealthy farmed salmon that have been injected with dye and exposed with antibiotics.
You can find wild salmon more available during summer seasons. Canned salmon packed and shipped directly from Alaska is also a good way for you to consume wild salmon. I have seen them at the regular grocery stores. Make sure to read the labels. Go Wild!
Now comes to plant protein. It is an excellent protein source comparing to most animal protein when it comes to fat. When you consume plant protein, you don’t have to worry much about saturated fat or cholesterol levels with the exception of coconut. However, here is the catch!
Even though plant protein might contain less fat per oz compared to animal protein, a much larger food consumption is required to get the same amount of protein if you obtain them through plant sources instead of animal. Therefore you increase your caloric intake as well. If you are a vegetarian and is having a hard time loosing weight, consuming too much soy products or starched vegetables might be the culprit.
But “what should I do” when it comes to choosing animal protein vs plant protein?
There are no clear-cut answers. Many extreme views are out there when it comes to choosing animal protein vs plant protein. But before you adopt any theories or practices, your might like to read: Animal Protein vs Vegetable Protein: Key Questions
These are key questions you must ask when it comes to choosing animal protein vs plant protein. Go through these questions and write down your responses. The goal of these questions is to help you make an informative and empowered decision on your dietary protein choice that suites you. It is a very important step because choosing the right protein for your body is a dietary foundation to a healthy life!
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I wish you well!