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 essential amino acids. 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 will now bring to order.

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 this is why you need not worry about combining protein at every meal. Of course, this does not mean that you can eat only tomatoes and cucumbers for an entire month, but it also does not mean that you have to eat all fruits and vegetables every day.

Next things, 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 you eat meat, eggs, and dairy, along with the protein, you also get cholesterol and saturated fat, but no fiber and antioxidants and when you eat fruit and vegetables, along with the protein, you also get fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, but no cholesterol.

Where do you get your protein from on a plant based diet? How do athletes obtain all the necessary protein from fruits and vegetables? From everywhere! Every fruit and vegetable on this planet contains protein! Yes! Even bananas! 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 them for protein because in that case you’d have to eat several kilograms of greens a day. A protein deficiency on a whole food plant based diet where you daily consume all the power and riches of this planet – greens, legumes, fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts – is unheard of.

Protein content in fruits and vegetables © matija.rs

Protein content in fruits and vegetables © matija.rs

Only plants have the ability to take nitrogen from air, break its molecules apart, and then create protein out of it. All protein which you get from animals is recycled plant protein that comes with a package of garbage, cholesterol, and saturated fats. And with all that said, we can conclude that we should obtain protein from producers, not resellers. In other words, we should obtain protein from plants, not animals.

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