I’ve noticed a lot of vegan restaurants and plant-based food options in the grocery store in Lakeland, FL. It’s part of a new trend and eating style that’s in all areas. There are even plant-based protein choices at fast food restaurants. So, which is best? Are there benefits to consuming animal-based protein or should we look to the plant world for protein in our diets?
Amino acids are the building blocks for protein, but it can’t make all of them.
Protein is essential for all cell functions and building cells. For a long time, scientists believed there were 20 amino acids, but have added two new ones and now believe there might be as many as 200. Within the group of amino acids, there are nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are the ones that the body can’t make and must come from food. Animal-based protein is complete, containing all nine essential amino acids, but not all plant protein does. In order to get all essential amino acids from plants, the diet must contain several sources of plant protein that combine to achieve a complete protein source.
It’s all about choosing high-quality protein.
Quality protein refers to the amount of protein available to the body known as bioavailability. It also refers to the amount the body can absorb to use. There are high-quality sources for both animal and plant protein. Fish, poultry, red meat, dairy, eggs, quinoa and soy all fit into the category of quality protein. Pea protein is easier to digest than beans, nuts or rice. However, recent studies showed that animal protein tends to be more bioavailable, so you don’t have to eat as much to get the same amount of usable protein.
It’s more about the type of plant and animal protein you consume.
If you’re eating highly processed meat, like bacon or luncheon meat, no matter how bioavailable the protein is, it isn’t as healthy as eating most plant-based protein dishes. These foods contain additives that can cause inflammation that affect the entire body. The same is true of plant-based options, too. For instance, when animal-based burgers were compared to plant-based ones offered at the same fast food chain, animal-based protein was more bioavailable, but both contain sodium and saturated fat, but the plant based alternative contained four times as much sodium and twice as much saturated fat.
- Choose animal protein and plant protein from organic sources don’t use herbicides, insecticides, steroids, antibiotics and hormones when being raised. These can cause inflammation.
- Some plant choices may be superior to animal sources. It’s not because of the protein itself but the other nutrients the plant contains, like fiber. Animal protein is also higher in saturated fat.
- If you want the most nutrients from an animal-based source, choose organ meats from grass fed or pastured animals. For seafood, opt for wild caught options and ones that don’t come from seafood farms, particularly those outside of the US with lower standards.
- It’s not difficult to get complete proteins from plant sources. Peanut butter on whole wheat is one example. You don’t even have to eat all the protein choices at one meal but can spread them throughout the day to get complete proteins.
For more information, contact us today at Habitat Health & Fitness