One of the more common questions you're asked when friends and family learn that you’ve switched to a plant-based diet is, “But where will you get your protein?” Of course, vegetarians and vegans have long ago solved this problem. Plant-based protein sources are delicious and plentiful, and may even be better sources of protein than animal sources. In this blog, we’ll be comparing the benefits and drawbacks of animal protein and plant-based protein so you can be confident in your choice to get proper nutrition with your plant-based diet.
Plant Protein vs. Animal Protein
First, we’ll look at how protein is used in the body. Humans are made up of around 20% protein, but the body doesn’t store protein, so we need to get protein from the food we eat. When you eat something that contains protein, the protein is then broken down into amino acids, which are used in nearly every one of our body’s processes. There are around twenty amino acids needed by the body, and not every protein source has all the required amino acids. This is where the differences between animal and plant proteins become important.Animal proteins include those from meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. Most animal proteins contain a variety of amino acids, leading to the phrase “complete protein.” Animal protein sources are also cited as containing vitamins and minerals necessary for the body’s functions. Despite these benefits, long-term animal protein consumption has shown some possibly dangerous side effects. Red meat in particular (beef, pork, mutton, venison, and others), has been linked to several health issues. Processed red meat like sausage and bacon was classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization due to the use of nitrates in the processing. Even unprocessed red meat has been linked to conditions like colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Amino Acids and Plant Protein
You can find protein in a wide variety of plant food sources. Grains, legumes, nuts, beans, soy, and lentils are excellent sources of plant-based protein. While they may individually not be complete protein sources, combining them or eating multiple different plant-based protein sources can quickly provide all the amino acids you need. A great example of a plant-based complete protein is rice and beans. This classic combination solves the low amounts of lysine in rice with beans, which have plenty of lysines. If you're someone with a busy lifestyle and not much time to cook a balanced plant-based meal, check out our vegan meal delivery service. It may require a bit more effort to get all the amino acids you need with a plant-based diet, but you’ll be able to avoid the risks of eating meat. Some of the added benefits of a plant-based diet include a higher intake of antioxidants and fiber. Are you interested in learning about more good sources of plant-based protein? Check out our other blog on some of the top plant-based protein sources for vegans, vegetarians, and eaters of all types!