Animal vs. Plant Protein – All You Need to Know

Animal vs. Plant Protein

Protein is an essential part of both the human body and diet. Almost 20% of the human body is made up of protein. These proteins are made up of 22 different types of amino acids. From skin to bones: our entire body contains protein. The human body cannot store protein like other macronutrients, so our body needs to take this from an outside source through diet. You can get protein from different sources, including animals and plants. Animal vs. plant protein? Which one is better?

Some people claim that the source of protein doesn’t matter, however, some claim plant protein is a better choice than animals.

Let’s take a look at both types of proteins.

Animal vs. plant protein

The main difference between animal and plant proteins depends upon their amino acids content. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Both proteins and amino acids are used in various processes of the body.

Proteins may vary depending upon the amino acids they contain. Nine amino acids like methionine, lycine, isoleucine, histidine, phenylalanine, threonine, leucine, valine and tryptophan are considered important for various metabolic processes. Animal sources contain a good balance of these amino acids.

Proteins containing all these nine amino acids are considered complete like:

  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Red meat
  • Poultry

The plant proteins lack one or two of these essential amino acids and are called incomplete like:

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Hemp
  • Rice
  • Peas

However, quinoa and buckwheat are complete sources of protein.

Animal protein sources and other nutrients

Animal proteins come with a wide variety of other essential nutrients that are important for health. These nutrients include Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, omega fatty acids, Heme-iron, and Zinc. You can get a­­ll these nutrients from animal sources like red meat, poultry, oily fish, and eggs.

Similarly, plants also contain few nutrients that are absent in animals. So it is ideal maintaining a balance while choosing plant and animal protein sources.

Animal protein and associated risks

Red meat is the ultimate protein source. It is packed with nutrients and provides many health benefits. However, red meat is high in cholesterol that is linked with many heart diseases.

Several studies have shown an increased risk of heart failure and other cardiac diseases with red meat consumption. Recent studies suggest heart diseases are mainly linked with processed meat consumption, not with red meat. In many studies, an increased risk of heart failure and early death was observed among those eating a lot of processed red meat. Further studies have confirmed these results that unprocessed red meat is not linked with heart failure, stroke, or other diseases.

However, more research is required to reach the ultimate results of whether red meat is good or bad. To be on the safe side, you can consume lean meat, turkey, chicken, and fish as an animal protein source.

Plant protein and associated benefits

Usually, a plant-based diet is linked with many health benefits. Several studies suggest the relationship between plants based diets and lower cholesterol levels, body weight, and BP.

These plant proteins may also lower the risk of cancer and heart diseases. Eating fiber-rich plants makes you full and helps in losing weight. Experts say these benefits are not certainly linked with eating plant-based proteins. 

Animal protein and their benefits

Eating animal protein is linked to many health benefits. Fish, chicken, lean meat, and low-fat dairy products have many health benefits. All these products lower the risk of heart disease and strokes.

Similarly, eggs are a rich source of protein and other important nutrients. Eating eggs helps in losing weight and improves the good cholesterol level of the body. Similarly, consuming meat also improves lean muscle mass. It also prevents muscle loss.

Animal vs. plant protein – Which protein source is best?

Both animal and plant protein sources have diverse nutritional characteristics. Animal protein sources include vital elements such as vitamin B12 and omega fatty acids. Plant protein sources lack these nutrients. Similarly, plants have antioxidants and phytonutrients that animal sources lack.

Animal protein sources like red meat contain a high amount of cholesterol that is linked with many heart diseases. However, few studies have denied the results and found a relationship between red meat and heart diseases in people with other risk factors like smoking and alcohol intake. But white meat is totally safe to consume as it has low cholesterol levels.

Fiber is found in plants and is linked with improved gut health. Eating more plant proteins may help you avoid several risk factors, but it may also deprive you of essential nutrients.

Both plant-based and animal proteins have their drawbacks and benefits. In general, it is ideal to consume both protein sources in moderation or eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods to get the maximum health benefits.


What is the difference between animal and plant proteins?

Animal protein contains meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs. These are obtained from animals and are called complete protein because of the presence of all 9 essential amino acids. While plant-based protein sources are incomplete because of the absence of one or two amino acids. Plant-based protein sources include beans, legumes, grains, nuts, and soy.

Is plant protein better for you than animal protein?

Plant-based protein sources provide several health benefits. It has low-calorie content and keeps you satiated for a longer time. Animal protein has its own set of advantages, including the presence of certain amino acids that are not found in plants. In general, it is good to eat a healthy and balanced diet to get all the nutritional benefits.

What are the 9 essential amino acids?

The 9 essential amino acids are methionine, lycine, isoleucine, histidine, phenylalanine, threonine, leucine, valine, and tryptophan. Because our bodies cannot produce certain amino acids, we must obtain them from the diet.

What food has all 9 essential amino acids?

Animal protein sources like meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, fish, turkey, and cheese contain all nine essential amino acids. While soy products and quinoa are popular plant-based protein sources.

Does the human body need animal protein?

A few amino acids can be synthesized by the human body. However, the body requires nine essential amino acids to function properly. The human body does not synthesize them. Meat, poultry, and dairy products are consumed to fulfill the requirement of these amino acids for various metabolic processes.

Can you build muscle with plant protein?

Many people use whey protein to build the muscles as it is easy to digest and break down. While some consume meat and eggs. Both protein sources help in repairing and building muscles. Experts recommend eating a combination of both protein sources to get a wide range of amino acids.

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