What is the difference between plant and animal protein?

Horses obtain all their protein exclusively from plants © vikarus

If a horse, an elephant, and a rhinoceros eat plants only and obtain their entire protein exclusively from plants, why couldn’t you as well? Protein is a macronutrient that the body needs in order to build muscle and is made up of 22 amino acids.

Nine of those 22 amino acids cannot be produced by your body so you have to obtain them through food. They are called essential amino acids and include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Image amino acids as letters of an alphabet and protein as words. Your body uses an alphabet of 22 letters to create words.

Amino acids are like letters of an alphabet, proteins are like words © halfpoint

Amino acids are like letters of an alphabet, proteins are like words © halfpoint

You can get all essential amino acids by eating plants only because every plant on this planet contains every essential amino acid.
Essential amino acids in a banana © matija.rs

Essential amino acids in a banana © matija.rs

Some plants have a higher amount of one set of essential amino acids while others have a higher amount of another set of essential amino acids. Because of this, many people believe that plant proteins must be combined at each meal. In other words, many people believe that they need to consume equal amounts of all essential amino acids with every meal. Many use this as an argument to claim that animal protein is better than plant protein, but this is pure propaganda that we will now bring to order.

Essential amino acids in beans © matija.rs

Essential amino acids in beans © matija.rs

Your body is intelligent and has a reservoir of all amino acids that it maintains and uses for combining amino acids. Think of that reservoir as a piggy bank. When you eat a meal that does not contain a specific amount of all essential amino acids, your body takes the necessary amount of amino acids from the reservoir, combines it with the amino acids from your meal, and then uses all that to synthesize a complete protein.

The reservoir of amino acids is like a piggy bank © viperagp

The reservoir of amino acids is like a piggy bank © viperagp

On average, your body sends about 90 grams of different amino acids from its reservoir into your digestive tract. This is a normal thing that happens every day inside your body and because of that, if your daily nutrition is centered around a whole food plant-based diet, you need not worry about combining protein for every meal. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can eat only tomatoes and cucumbers for an entire month, but it also does not mean that you have to combine certain proteins for meals.

Next thing, animal protein causes hyperfiltration which means an increased workload on the kidneys. Just within three hours of consuming animal protein such as tuna, the pressure on the kidneys goes up. Eating plant protein, on the other hand, causes no overload reaction like hyperfiltration. You can find out more about that in this 3-minute NutritionFacts.org video “How Not to Die from Kidney Disease“.

Another major difference between plant and animal protein are the things which you get with them. When we consume meat, eggs, and dairy, along with the animal protein, we also get cholesterol, high amounts of saturated fat, and almost no antioxidants, as well as no fiber at all. But when we eat fruit and vegetables, along with the protein and all the essential amino acids, we also get fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and no cholesterol.

And did you know that most green leafy vegetables are made up of between 35 to 50 percent protein? But since they are low in calories, you cannot rely solely on green leafy vegetables for protein because in that case you’d have to eat several kilograms of greens a day.

What’s important to know, especially for athletes, is that besides the fact that we get protein from every fruit and vegetable, legumes contain a significant amount of protein and make up the foundation of a whole food plant-based diet because they are rich not only with protein, but energy as well.

So a protein deficiency on a whole food plant-based diet – where you daily consume all the power and riches of this planet such as legumes, greens, fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts – is unheard of.

Protein content in fruits and vegetables © matija.rs

Protein content in fruits and vegetables © matija.rs

All protein which you get from animals is recycled plant protein that comes with a package of garbage, cholesterol, and high amounts of saturated fats.

And with all that said, we can conclude that it’s much more optimal for us to obtain protein from producers and not resellers. In other words, we should obtain protein from fruits and vegetables, not animals.

To better health

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