Are Animal Proteins Better for You Than Plant Proteins? (2024)

Cedars-Sinai Blog

Jan 16, 2019 Cedars-Sinai Staff

Are Animal Proteins Better for You Than Plant Proteins? (1)

Along with fats and carbohydrates, protein is one of the macronutrients we need to live.

Our bodies use proteins from food to build and repair tissues, as well as make hormones, enzymes, and other things that are vital to our health.

Traditionally, meat has been thought of as our main source of protein, but there are plenty of diverse protein sources out there.

We talked to nutritionist Stephanie Cramer, administrative dietitian atCedars-Sinai Clinical Nutrition Services, to help us understand the differences in protein sources.

Animal protein

Found in: meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish

Cramer:The human body needs 20 different amino acids. Our bodies create 11 of them (these are called "non-essential amino acids"), but we must get the other 9 from food (essential amino acids).

Animal proteins, such as meat, eggs, and milk, are complete proteins, meaning they provide all of the essential amino acids our body needs. Animal products provide the highest-quality protein sources.

On the flip side, several studies have linked red meat consumption to an increased risk of heart disease,stroke, and early death.

Further studies have shown that eating more processed red meat may actually increase the risk of dying from heart disease. Processed meats include smoked meat, sausage, hot dogs, salami, bacon, and canned meat.

Plant protein

Found in: beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, quinoa, leafy greens such as broccoli and kale, whole grains

Cramer:Certain plants can be excellent sources of protein, often with fewer calories and fewer potentially harmful effects than animal products.

Some plant proteins, such as quinoa, are complete proteins—which means they contain all 9 essential amino acids that we need. Others are missing some amino acids, so it is important to eat a variety of foods to get all 9.

Studies show that people on vegetarian or vegan diets (which often rely on plant protein) are at a lower risk of certain diseases including cancers,type 2 diabetes,hypertension, obesity, andischemic heart disease.

Whey protein

Found in: dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, whey protein supplements, hydrolyzed-whey infant formula

Cramer:Whey protein is a popular dietary protein supplement and one of the main proteins found in dairy products; it's a byproduct of cheese manufacturing.

Its biological components have been shown to demonstrate a range of immune-enhancing properties. Whey can also work as an antioxidant, antihypertensive, antiviral, and antibacterial agent.

Whey is also used in some infant formulas to help reducecolicand in supplements because it is believed to benefit exercise performance.

Soy protein

Found in: soybeans (edamame), miso, soy sauce, tofu, tempeh

Cramer:Soy protein is found in soybeans, a legume that does not contain cholesterol and is low in saturated fat.

Soybeans are one of the only vegetable foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids. They are also a good source of fiber, iron, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins.

Eating soy protein in place of animal protein has been found to reduce bad cholesterol and triglycerides, which are linked to heart disease. Other studies have shown that soy contributes to blood sugar control and reduced body weight.

One serving a day (e.g., 1 cup soymilk, ½ cup tofu or soybeans) may be effective for cancer prevention because the phytochemicals in soy may prevent tumors from creating blood vessels that would promote tumor growth.

Are Animal Proteins Better for You Than Plant Proteins? (2024)


Are Animal Proteins Better for You Than Plant Proteins? ›

Animal proteins are complete proteins. That means they contain all the essential amino acids that you need in your diet. Plant proteins are often, but not always, incomplete sources of protein, There are benefits and concerns with both types of protein.

Are animal proteins better for you than plant proteins? ›

Animal protein, with its higher protein quality, is usually considered to be superior to plant protein for building muscle mass [15,16,17].

What are the disadvantages of plant protein? ›

Plant proteins are not readily absorbed by the human body in comparision to animal based proteins. So, you will really need to increase your intake of plant proteins to make up for their less absorption in body. Also plant proteins tend to hinder the absorption of several minerals from your digestive tract.

Is plant protein easier on kidneys than animal protein? ›

Plant protein and kidney health

Some studies have found that replacing some of the animal protein in your diet with plant protein may lower your risk of kidney problems.

What is the best form of protein? ›

Proteins that come from animal sources, such as meat, eggs, and milk, as well as soy and quinoa, are called complete proteins. This means they contain all the essential amino acids the body needs and are the highest-quality protein sources. You can also get essential amino acids from plant-based foods.

What are the disadvantages of animal protein? ›

Does it matter if that protein is from animals or plants? Apparently yes. The adverse effects associated with long-term, high protein-high meat diets may include disorders of bone and calcium balance, increased cancer risk, disorders of the liver, and worsening of coronary artery disease.

Is eating plants better than meat? ›

The health factor

It's rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. And people who don't eat meat, called vegetarians, generally eat fewer calories and less fat. They also tend to weigh less. And they have a lower risk of heart disease than nonvegetarians do.

Which protein is hardest on the kidneys? ›

Plant-based protein like beans and nuts are easier on the kidneys than animal proteins like meat and dairy products. This is because plant proteins produce less acid in the body than meat proteins. More acid in body can damage the kidneys.

What foods help repair kidneys? ›

  • Açai berries. Açai (ah-sigh-EE) berries are small fruits that grow in clusters like grapes and have a center pit. ...
  • Apples. Apples are rich in antioxidants and a good source of fiber and vitamin C. ...
  • Citrus. ...
  • Cherries. ...
  • Pomegranates. ...
  • Strawberries. ...
  • Tomatoes.

Which plant is good for kidneys? ›

Turmeric leads to improved plasma proteins and decreased serum urea and creatinine levels in T2DM patients and could be useful in the improvement of kidney function. 3. The anti-inflammatory effect of ginger helps in reducing swelling and pain in the kidneys caused by infections.

What kind of protein should you eat everyday? ›

For daily protein intake, think "protein package"

For one, don't read "get more protein" as "eat more meat." Beef, poultry, and pork (as well as milk, cheese, and eggs) can certainly provide high-quality protein, but so can many plant foods — including whole grains, beans and other legumes, nuts, and vegetables.

Is animal protein inflammatory? ›

According to one theory, red meat and pork (but not poultry and fish) may promote inflammation in the body because these meats contain a compound called N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc).

Can you build muscle with plant-based protein? ›

While plant proteins may contain different amino acid profiles compared to animal proteins, they can still effectively support muscle growth, especially when consumed in a varied and balanced diet.

Is plant protein better than chicken protein? ›

That said, compared to many plant-based options, the protein from chicken is of a higher-quality, meaning it has enough of each of the nine essential amino acids – the building blocks of protein – that are needed in the human diet to help build muscle and strengthen bone.

Which animal protein is best? ›

White-meat poultry, such as chicken or turkey breasts. Fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, lake trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna. Pork tenderloin. Lean or extra-lean cuts of beef such as sirloin or round cuts, greater than 93% lean ground beef.

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