When most people think of protein, products such as meat, eggs, and fish come to mind. Many don’t realize that you can get protein from vegetables as well. But these proteins are not built alike: below we’ll attempt to shed some light on the difference between the two so you can make the right choices for your protein intake.
Some Differences between Animal and Vegetable Protein
Here are some of the differences between the two proteins that you should consider before incorporating either into your weight loss diet:
• Animal protein has more (bad) fat, which in turn leads to weight gain, heart disease and a higher cancer risk
• The Harvard School of Public Health points out that animal proteins have a balance of all amino acids. Animal protein is sometimes known as a “complete protein” for this reason”. With the exception of soybean protein, no vegetable protein can boast of this advantage. Soybean protein lacks the important amino acid methionine though. For more information on this, please see our reference below: methionine is essential for metabolism, and is helpful in treating depression, liver diseases, and muscle pain.
• Foods that give you vegetable proteins are also high in fiber and almost always low in fat.
• Other studies show that vegetable proteins can be low in other amino acids like lysine and cysteine.
The Risks of Both
In a day and age where people are frantically trying to decide which foods to stick to and which to ditch, there’s an increasing need among some to advocate for either an animal protein diet or a vegetable protein diet. While either certainly have their benefits, they also come with risks.
The risks of a regimen high in animal protein are obvious: due to its high saturated fat content, you will have higher cholesterol levels, which leads to heart disease, and you’ll most certainly gain weight. A primarily vegetable protein diet does not carry any of these life-threatening dangers. Vegetable proteins, on the other hand, contain no cholesterol and very small amounts of fat (bad or good fat!).
The Harvard study, meanwhile, highlighted the advantages of a vegetable protein diet: "Vegetable sources of protein, such as beans, nuts, and whole grains…offer healthy fibre, vitamins and minerals.”
But Ellen Muehlhoff of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) states that, "We need a variety of food - from plants as well as animals - to provide the many different nutrients required for human health. In general, livestock products are major sources of protein, fat and micronutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, vitamins B12, A and riboflavin."
At the end of the day, as with many other aspects in one’s journey towards their goal weight, moderation is key. A healthy balance of animal and vegetable proteins is ideal; if you’re vegetarian or vegan, make sure to include plenty of beans and grains into your diet to make up for the amino acids you’re losing with vegetable proteins.
For more information: