Animal Protein vs. Plant Protein
Proteins form an important part of a balanced diet. They are important because all cells contain protein. Protein helps the body fight infections, form blood clots and repair injuries. In fact, when your body has no other option for energy, it turns to protein for help.
Protein is protein, Right?
There are many views surrounding protein types. Some believe that protein is protein no matter the source. Others are adamant that there are significant differences between animal and plant protein.
Research has shown that the major difference between plant and animal protein is their amino acid profile. An amino acid is simply a building block for protein. Our bodies can produce some of these amino acids on their own whereas others have to be obtained through protein rich foods.
What types of amino acids are there?
The amino acids that the body produces are called non-essential amino acids, meaning they are not needed in large amounts in your diet. These include alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid.
On the other hand, those that need to be obtained from protein rich foods are called essential amino acids. These include lysine, histidine, isoleucine, tryptophan, leucine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and valine.
These are amino acids that are needed by the body in certain conditions or in regions where they aren’t found in high amounts. These Include tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, serine, arginine, cysteine, and glutamine.
Where can I find amino acids?
Protein containing the essential amino acids can be sourced from either animal or plants. Common sources of animal proteins include eggs, dairy products, fish and lean meat. Plant proteins can be obtained from beans, grains, nuts and some fruits and vegetables.
Animal vs. plant sources:
Animal protein is more similar in structure to our bodies as compared to plant protein and therefore it is absorbed faster. Also, animal protein possesses a complete set of amino acids thus some consider it the best source of all the protein required by the body.
On the other hand, plant protein sources are termed incomplete in their profile of amino acids. For example, the plant protein source with the closest number of amino acids in its protein profile is the soy bean. However, it lacks in the amino acid methionine which is needed by the body for metabolism.
Unlike animal protein, plant protein is merited by its lack of harmful cholesterol that may cause heart diseases and increase blood pressure when consumed. It is also enriched with more fibers, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as compared to animal protein sources. Others argue that the fact that animal proteins are complete in amino acids maybe a disadvantage. This is because if animal protein is over-consumed, it’s known to cause poor kidney function and osteoporosis (thinning of bone tissue and gradual reduction in bone density).
Therefore, the only option left for vegans and those who’s diets consist of pure plant protein is to ensure variety in their diet. This is commonly referred to as protein combining. This way they can be sure that the body gets all the essential amino acids it requires. However, proper protein combining requires a little knowledge of what proteins contain what amino acids, although the benefits are worth the trouble.
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