Animal and vegetable proteins are one essential nutrient. Proteins are a building material that we need for the production and repair of cells. In addition, they are involved in various processes in our bodies.
Almost all foods contain protein. Many people think of proteins like cheese, milk, and meat. However, there are also vegetable proteins. In this article, I explain the differences between animal and vegetable proteins. In addition, I will tell you what you should take into account when choosing the types of proteins.
What are proteins?
Proteins, like carbohydrates and fats, are macronutrients. Certain macronutrients provide amino acids in addition to calories. Animal and vegetable proteins consist of the building blocks of amino acids.
The requirement for adults is about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This calculation does not apply to overweight people. The need is higher among children, vegans, vegetarians, athletes, and pregnant women.
In total there are 22 different amino acids. Our body can make 13 of these itself. These are called the “non-essential amino acids”. In contrast, there are 9 essential amino acids that we can only get through our diet.
In addition, there are 6 semi-essential amino acids that we cannot sufficiently produce ourselves in certain situations. This is the case, for example, in the event of illness or a recording disorder.
Quality of proteins
The quality of protein sources is determined by the characteristics below.
- How many essential amino acids are in the protein
- The digestibility of the amino acids
This determines how much can be absorbed into our body
- The total amount of protein in the food
This applies to both animal and vegetable proteins.
In addition, digestibility is often better than vegetable proteins. The amount of protein is also usually higher. That is why, for example, animal proteins are often eaten by athletes who want to build muscle.
The foods below contain a lot of animal proteins.
- Poultry, such as chicken
However, there are also disadvantages to eating many animal protein sources. Too much red and processed meat can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, among other things.
Fatty fish contains many healthy fatty acids. However, it also contains harmful substances due to environmental pollution, such as dioxins or heavy metals. For this reason, it is advised to limit fish to 1 time per week. Dioxins can also be found in eggs.
Saturated fat in animal products can also raise your cholesterol levels. This includes fatty meat, full-fat dairy products, sausage, and full-fat cheese (48+).
In addition to legumes, other foods naturally contain a lot of vegetable proteins.
The foods below contain vegetable proteins.
- Grains, such as couscous and whole-wheat pasta
- Tofu and tempeh
- Legumes, such as kidney beans, soybeans, and lentils
Vegetable protein sources often contain a less favorable composition than essential amino acids. Some vegetable protein sources are also less easy to digest.
For that reason, it is advised to consume 20% more protein as a vegetarian. Vegans generally need 30% more protein. So you add this to the 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
It's also important to vary between different types of plant-based protein foods to get all the essential amino acids. Eating more plant-based foods has many benefits. It is not only better for your health, but also the environment.
You can already eat more plant-based proteins by replacing meat with legumes once a week or limiting your intake of red and processed meat.