Animal vs Plant Protein – What’s the Difference?

First off, what is protein?

Protein is essential for the human body – it’s main job is to build and maintain tissue. Although there are over 10,000 different types of proteins in our bodies, these are all made up of the same 22 amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and they link together in different ways. The way the amino acids are linked determines which type of protein will be formed.

Essential Proteins

9 out of 22 amino acids are considered “essential” for humans. Unlike “non-essential” amino acids, which are produced by our bodies, we need to obtain essential proteins from our diet. For optimal health, the body needs all of the essential amino acids in the right ratios.

What is the difference between animal and plant proteins?

The main difference between animal and plant proteins is that animal proteins are considered “complete,” whereas plant proteins are not.

Animal protein

animal protein

Animal protein (which comes from meat, eggs and dairy products) is similar to the protein found in our bodies, so it is absorbed more easily than the protein in plants. Animal protein is also considered to be more “complete” than plant protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids that our bodies need to function properly.

This doesn’t mean you should cut vegetables from your diet though, it’s all about balance…

Plant protein

plant protein

Vegetables are low in calories and fat and they are full of vitamins and minerals. However, they don’t contain as much protein per serving as meat. In addition, the proteins that they do contain are “less complete” than those in meat, as they don’t contain all of the amino acids that the body needs. So how do vegetarians and vegans get all the amino acids they need?! Well, they need to make sure that their diet includes a variety of different plant proteins, including nuts, legumes, soy-based products and grains as well as fruit and vegetables. This variety ensures that their bodies get the various amino acids necessary.

The right balance for meat-eaters

According to Authority Nutrition, foods that contain animal protein tend to be high in several nutrients that are often lacking in plant foods.

These include:

  • Vitamin B12, which is mainly found in fish, meat, poultry and dairy products.
  • Vitamin D, which is found in oily fish, eggs and dairy.
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is an essential omega-3 fat found in fatty fish.
  • Heme-iron, which is predominantly found in meat, especially red meat.
  • Zinc, which is mainly found in animal protein sources, such as beef, pork and lamb.

Of course, there are also numerous nutrients found in plants that not  in animal proteins. Therefore, eating balanced amounts of both animal and plant based foods is the best way to get all the nutrients you need. For those who are conscious about their health, we recommend eating our Grasslands Beef as part of a balanced diet!