In an attempt to foster a healthy diet, you always make sure to include those key nutrients and vitamins into your everyday meals — which means getting enough protein is often at the top of your dietary priority list. But when it comes down to actually getting your daily source of protein, you may have a few questions about which foods you should turn to when looking to reap the most health benefits. And if it’s plant protein vs. animal protein, which one wins?
Vegetarians will tell you that eating as many leafy greens as possible is the best way to enhance your wellbeing. Meat-eaters, on the other hand, stand by their claim that eating meat is a necessary part of fueling up their energy. But when it comes down to the plant protein vs. animal protein debate, who’s right?
You know that making an effort to include more protein in your diet is important. But as long as you assist your body in getting more of this valuable nutrient, it shouldn’t matter where you get your protein — right? Well, not quite. Below, we’ll outline the basics surrounding protein while helping you to discover which form of protein intake is best suited for you.
Understanding the Difference
Let’s begin with the basics. Proteins are molecules in the body that play a vital role in chemical processing in the bodies of living organisms. As one of the basic building blocks of life, proteins are required to help your body regulate it’s various organs and systems, ensuring that you can go about your daily life with ease.
Proteins are also constructed of even smaller units referred to as amino acids, which are primarily responsible for creating the protein and determining its formation and function.
In the plant protein vs. animal protein debate, it looks like plant protein often wins. There’s a reason why many nutritionists and healthcare professionals are eager to deem plant protein the superior choice. Below, we’ll discuss why.
Maximizing Health Benefits While Minimizing Side Effects
While animal protein is often highly-esteemed for packing high levels of nutrients, did you know that plants carry various vitamins and nutritional value, too?
As we previously mentioned, amino acids are key to forming various protein molecules. While you may think that you can only get part of your nutritional value from leafy greens and fruits or vegetables, you’ll be happy to know that this is not entirely true.
Out of the 22 amino acids known in existence, 9 are key to the human body and its ability to form protein. Fortunately, there are a variety of sources of these amino acids in nature that ensure you plenty of variation in your diet while maximizing your protein intake, too.
And while both animal-based and plant-rich diets may have the capacity to provide you with valuable amino acids, there are fewer health risks when you opt for leafy greens instead. For instance, the International Agency for Research (IARC) recently deemed processed meat a carcinogen, meaning it has the potential to cause cancer.
A plant-rich diet is also associated with a decreased cardiovascular disease risk, too. Because plants naturally possess more fiber, plant-rich meals can better aid your digestive tract while ensuring healthy gut microbiome levels. What does all of this mean for you? Essentially, it signifies you can get all of your valuable protein while keeping your heart healthy, too.
Plant Protein vs. Animal Protein — Finding a Balance
While it may seem like the jury’s out on plant protein benefits, that doesn’t mean you have to overlook the benefits provided by animal protein. When it comes down to the questions surrounding plant protein vs. animal protein, several research studies suggest that animal protein can offer many health benefits as well, so much so that animal proteins are a staple of popular high-fat, low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet.
For instance, one study examining the optimal diet concludes that animal protein intake can lead to a more active metabolism and healthy levels of saturated fat ingestion. For some people, this could mean keeping a bit of meat on the plate may be a wise decision.
Just remember to eat a balanced diet and ensure that you get your daily protein intake while playing close attention to the nutritional value of your foods. In the end, you can enjoy that plate of meatballs sometimes if you choose to. Just pair it with a dish of salad, too!