The battle of food: Animal VS plant proteins?

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Protein is one of the most important elements of diet and along with carbohydrates and fat, belongs to macronutrients. The role of protein in the body is very important, as without it there is no life. Animal and plant food can both supply the body with protein, but there are some differences between animal and plant proteins.


What are proteins?

Proteins are present in muscles, organs, blood, bones, hair and skin. The human body has the ability to store a small amount of protein to meet its basic needs under difficult conditions, with daily dietary needs being covered through nutrition.

The building blocks of proteins are amino acids. In total, there are 22 different amino acids, of which 9 are considered essential (glycine, valine, isoleucine, leucine, threonine, methionine, lysine, glutamic acid, phenylalanine, tryptophan). As essential are defined the amino acids which are important for health, but the body is unable to synthesize them.

We would say that the body does not need specific proteins but specific amino acids. Proteins that have all the essential amino acids, consequently, are so-called complete or of high biological value.


The role of proteins

The most important functions of proteins are the production and repair of connective tissue, the synthesis of enzymes and hormones, the transport of molecules in the body, are a basic component of the immune system, and also catalyze many biochemical reactions.


Vegetable proteins VS Animal proteins

One of the main differences between plant and animal proteins is their amino acid content. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Most plant proteins are deficient, which means they lack at least one of the essential amino acids. However, some plant foods, such as quinoa and buckwheat, are good sources of high biological proteins. It is important for vegetarians and vegans to mix their protein sources and ensure that they get all the essential amino acids. Also, some sources of plant proteins may take longer to be digested.

When choosing between plant and animal proteins, it is important to keep in mind the other nutrients that foods provide may also vary considerably. Some sources of animal protein can contain high levels of iron and vitamin B-12, while plant foods do not have these nutrients.

On the other hand, in plant foods, there are some phytochemical nutrients and antioxidants, which are absent from animal proteins. In addition, animal products contain saturated fatty acids and higher cholesterol levels from plant protein sources.

Dietary fibers are another very important factor. Only plant foods contain fibers, which promote gut health, relieve from constipation and help maintain gut microflora.


Which protein is better?

Results of a meta-analysis of studies suggest that eating more animal proteins, especially those derived from processed red meat, can significantly increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, especially when there is an additional risk factor such as smoking, alcohol intake, or overweight or obesity. Eating more plant proteins can help reduce cardiovascular risk if they are well consumed and there are no nutritional deficiencies.



Protein sources Animal foodPlant food
Dairy productsDried fruits – nuts
Cheese productsCertain fresh fruits
Red meatRice
Meat productsPea


Daily Recommended Intake  (RDA)

(mg/kg body weight)

Adults0.8 gr
Low activity level1 gr
Moderate level of activity1.3
High activity level1.6 gr


In conclusion

In general, the best way to meet a person’s dietary needs is to eat a wide variety of foods in moderation. If the consumption of plant proteins seems to prevail over cardiovascular risk, they require a better nutritional design to be able to supply all the essential amino acids.


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