Plant Protein Vs. Animal Protein: What's the Difference?
Protein is an essential macronutrient for building muscle mass in the human body. In fact, protein makes up 20% of the body—from the organs and muscles to the bones, hair, and skin. However, the human body can’t store protein as it does with other macronutrients. So, you have to replenish it with the food you eat constantly.
Protein builds, repairs, and maintains the human body's structure, which is why it is vital in everyone's diet. Fortunately, you can get protein from several food sources.
Now, some may believe that it doesn't matter where you get your protein—as long as you get your daily recommended intake. However, there are key differences between these two sources of protein. These days, many medical studies have proven that plant-based protein is better than animal-based protein.
How is plant protein different from animal protein?
If animal protein is so healthy, then why is a burger-a-day-diet not good for the health?
Yes, animal meat is a rich source of protein, but it also comes with high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, the leading causes of heart disease and obesity. And it gets worse. The hormones (cortisol and estrogen) found in animal products, such as meat and milk, increase your risk of cancer. So at the end of the day, animal meat is actually a poor source of protein.
According to a study done by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, people who constantly eat a lot of red meat and processed meat are at an increased risk of premature death. It’s more likely that they can get a stroke, diabetes, or heart disease.
Fortunately, there are plant-based foods that are also rich in protein, such as nuts, seeds, beans, soy, peas, lentils, whole grains, rice, quinoa, and legumes, as well as certain fruits such as avocados.
It's been known for a long time that all plant foods contain all of the nine essential amino acids. So, the idea that plant protein is incomplete is just a myth. Though, some of them are low in one or two amino acids. But as long as you eat a wide variety of plant-based foods, you are golden.
Health benefits of eating plant protein
According to Popular Science, a recent study found out that those who follow a plant-based diet are 31% less susceptible to cardiovascular disease. They also have a 20% lower risk of mortality than those whose diet is heavy on animal-based products. Although the study wasn't really specifically about proteins, it still shows that eating less animal meat, especially red meat, is better for your long-term health. You need to consider replacing meat with a healthier alternative protein—or at least reduce your animal meat consumption.
Here are some more benefits of a plant-based diet over an animal-based one.
1. Plant protein has more fiber and nutrients than animal products
Although some plants are low in one or two of the nine essential amino acids, a diverse plant-based diet can give you enough protein amounts and other essential nutrients, such as iron, vitamin C, calcium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12.
Additionally, plants are high in fiber, which is another important nutrient that balances your digestive system. This is something you cannot get from animal meat. For this very reason, plant-based proteins are by far a much healthier option than meat. Did you know there are more fiber deficiencies than protein deficiencies?
Plant-based and animal-based diets have very similar vitamin profile. But the biggest difference is that plants don’t have the same cancer-promoting growth hormones as animal products do. So, you are actually much better off with a plant-based diet.
And, if you're looking for a plant-based milk alternative, there is also something for you, such as almond, soy, coconut, rice, oats, and hemp milk. Just make sure that you choose unsweetened plant milk options.
2. Meat contains high levels of cholesterol and saturated fats
Animal products contain high levels of cholesterol and saturated fat, which is why you may want to avoid that huge chunk of steak. Fat is what makes burgers and steaks flavourful. But it can also clog your heart, increasing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, you get less saturated fat and absolutely no cholesterol with plant proteins.
3. Processed, red meat contains carcinogenic compounds
A few years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a massive report proclaiming that processed, red meats are carcinogenic. Many cases of colorectal, prostate, and pancreatic cancer have been linked to red meat consumption.
According to the American Cancer Society, WHO classifies processed meat, such as bacon and sausage, as a group 1 carcinogen, putting them in the same category as tobacco. Red meat or beef, on the other hand, is classified as a group 2A carcinogen, which is the same category as malaria.
Growing plants Vs Raising animals: Which is better?
Industrial livestock farming creates a significant carbon footprint, as it contributes to water and land degradation.
Did you know that it is the biggest contributor to deforestation? The meat industry is the biggest contributor to deforestation in the world. Its relentless use of Earth’s major rainforests in places such as Colombia and Brazil—just to feed crops and provide grazing land to cattle—this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Livestock factory farming does not just affect the environment. It is also one of the leading causes of world hunger. According to World Health Organization (WHO), more than a billion people live in poverty in a world that has the capacity to feed twice its population. What’s the reason behind that? It’s because the world's food supply is being unfairly distributed—all because of selfishness and greed. Did you know that over 35% of all grain production across the world is fed to livestock instead of humans?
Plant-based agriculture, on the other hand, uses less land and energy. According to faunalytics.org, the analysis report conducted by the Humane Party states that plant-based farming generates about 1.5 trillion more pounds of products than animal agriculture while using only about 115 million acres less land.
Although it takes a lot of water to produce a single glass of almond milk, dairy is still much worse. According to onegreenplanet.org, it requires 30 gallons of water to produce a single glass of milk, while it only takes 23 gallons of water to produce one glass of almond milk.
Most people would argue that that's not much difference and that's a lot of water for a small amount of almond milk. But, if you look at the bigger picture, you'll realise that a dairy farm uses a whopping 3.4 million gallons of water a day. They use this water to clean the floors, milking parlor walls, and equipment, as well as for keeping cows hydrated.
It's sad knowing that so much water goes to producing dairy products when there are places in the world where people do not have access to enough clean water.
When all has been said and done, choosing to follow a vegan lifestyle is not just about living a healthier life. It is also a moral decision necessary to saving the environment.