Animal vs Plant Proteins: What's The Difference?

Mar 21, 2016 06:50 AM EDT | By Rhea Penaflor

Is there any difference between animal and plant proteins? They're called "proteins," after all, right?  Wrong. Find out why there's a need to understand animal and plant proteins as they enter our body through the food we eat.

Trivia: It is estimated that the human body may contain over two million proteins, coded for by only 20,000 - 25,000 genes. Hence, the human body is made up of 20% protein.

Nutrition Studies explains the primary difference between animal and plant protein is their amino acid profiles. It is those amino acid profiles that direct the rates at which the absorbed amino acids are put to use with our body. Animal based proteins are much more similar to our proteins, thus are used more readily and rapidly than plant proteins. This is called the 'substrate' amino acids derived from animal based proteins which are more readily available for our own protein-synthesizing reactions which allow them to operate at full tilt. Plant proteins are somewhat compromised by their limitation of one or more amino acids. When we restore the relatively deficient amino acid in a plant protein, we get a response rate equivalent to animal proteins.

When we consume food which is rich in proteins, the digestive system breaks it down into amino acids which enter into the pool of amino acids in our bloodstream. The best sources of protein are meats, fish, eggs and dairy products. They have all the essential amino acids that your body needs. On the other hand, some plants that are fairly high in protein, like quinoa, legumes, and nuts.

The vegans and the carnivores debate on which protein is better saying that for the carnivores, you have complete protein from animal sources such as meat and milk are complete proteins since they have all the 9 essential amino acids in a correct balance. Vegetable proteins although considered incomplete proteins because it lacks one or more amino acids  like grains, cereals and nuts can be complemented dried beans, dried peas, lentils, peanuts, peanut butter to make a complete protein diet.

If you want to maintain a good diet with enough protein intake, you can choose between animal and plant proteins or combine what is lacking from the other in case you are vegetarian.

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