The main difference between animal and plant protein is that animal protein is a complete protein, containing all essential amino acids, whereas plant proteins are incomplete proteins, providing only several essential amino acids to the diet. Furthermore, animal proteins are 90% absorbable while plant proteins are 60-70% absorbable. In addition to these, animal proteins contain heme iron while plant proteins contain non-heme iron.
In brief, animal and plant protein are two sources of protein, which is one of the three macronutrients of the body. However, animal products, which are rich in proteins, also contain high saturated fat and produce negative health effects. Plant products with proteins, on the other hand, contain lower amounts of minerals and vitamins.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is an Animal Protein
– Definition, Characteristics, Importance
2. What is a Plant Protein
– Definition, Characteristics, Importance
3. What are the Similarities Between Animal and Plant Protein
– Outline of Common features
4. What is the Difference Between Animal and Plant Protein
– Comparison of Key Differences
Animal Protein, Complete Protein, Heme-Iron, Incomplete Protein, Plant Protein
What is an Animal Protein
Animal protein is a type of protein source which has an animal origin. It is a complete protein; hence, it can provide all the essential amino acids to the body. Generally, animal protein occurs in fish, eggs, dairy products such as cheese, whey, milk, etc., red meat, poultry, etc. Importantly, there are certain nutrients which are only included in animal protein. They are heme-iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, DHA, and zinc.
Of these, heme-iron is mainly available in red meat and is readily absorbable by the body in contrast to the non-heme-iron present in plant protein. Also, vitamin B12 occurs in fish, meat, poultry, and dairy products. In addition to these, vitamin D occurs in oily fish, eggs, and dairy products. Moreover, DHA is an essential omega-3 fatty acid, which mainly occurs in oily fish. Besides, zinc mainly occurs in beef, pork, and lamb. However, although it is a complete protein, some animal protein sources such as red meat serve as the major risk factor of heart disease, stroke, and early death.
What is a Plant Protein
Plant protein is a type of protein source that has a plant origin. It is an incomplete protein, which lacks one of the several essential amino acids. Some rich sources of plant proteins include grains, lentils, nuts, beans, legumes, certain fruits such as avocados. However, some plant protein sources such as quinoa and buckwheat are complete proteins.
Moreover, plant protein contains phytonutrients such as antioxidants. It also contains a lower amount of saturated fat but, unsaturated fat in higher amounts. Therefore, plant protein is beneficial for health and may prevent heart disease. In addition to this, plant proteins are always rich in fiber, which keeps the digestive system balanced. It also contains non-heme-iron, which is less absorbable by the body. Thus, plant protein is a better solution for vegetarians.
Similarities Between Animal and Plant Protein
- Animal and plant protein are two sources of protein, which is one of the three macronutrients to be taken into the body through the diet.
- Generally, they provide both essential and nonessential amino acids to the body.
- Along with proteins, these food sources provide fat, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to the body.
- Moreover, the main function of proteins in the body is to make structures and to perform other regulatory and transport functions.
Difference Between Animal and Plant Protein
Animal protein refers to sources such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy, which are similar to the protein found in the body, while plant protein refers to the sources of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
Supply of Essential Nutrients
Animal protein is a complete protein, containing all essential amino acids. Meanwhile, plant proteins are incomplete proteins; they provide several essential amino acids to the diet, but not all.
While animal proteins are 90% absorbable, plant proteins are 60-70% absorbable.
Moreover, animal proteins are 85% digestible, while plant proteins are 95-100% digestible.
Whereas animal proteins are high in calories, plant proteins are low in calories.
Furthermore, animal proteins are rich in saturated fat, sodium, calcium, zinc, phosphate, and vitamin B12, while plant proteins are rich in unsaturated fat, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and folate.
Animal proteins contain heme iron, which is highly bioavailable, while plant proteins contain non-heme iron.
In addition to these, animal proteins are low in antioxidants while plant proteins are high in antioxidants.
Animal proteins contain a higher amount of uremic toxins and harbour proteolytic bacteria while plant proteins contain a low amount of uremic toxins and harbour saccharolytic bacteria.
Moreover, animal proteins have negative health effects while plant proteins show positive health effects.
Animal protein is a source of proteins with animal origin. It is a type of complete protein, providing all essential amino acids to the body. However, animal proteins are rich in saturated fat, sodium, phosphate, and vitamin B12. Therefore, they create bad health effects. Nevertheless, animal protein contains heme iron. On the other hand, plant protein is a source of proteins with a plant origin. It is an incomplete protein, but contain unsaturated fat, fiber, potassium, magnesium, folate, and antioxidants in higher amounts. Thus, it has beneficial health effects. Hence, in summary, the main difference between animal and plant protein is the type of protein source and their health effects.
1. Johnson, Jon. “Animal vs. Plant Protein: What Is the Difference and Which Is Best?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 21 Aug. 2018, Available Here.