Plant Protein v/s Animal Protein – What Is The Difference?

Protein should be an essential part of your diet as it helps in muscle building.  You can obtain the daily requirement via plant protein sources or animal protein sources.

The debate of plant protein v/s animal protein has been going on since forever. Protein is needed by the body to maintain lean muscles and for repair of body tissues. High-quality protein diet provides each of amino acids needed by the body. Proteins, when digested, become amino acids. These amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are needed to make new proteins.

(Source – Vegan Gains)
There are 20 amino acids that the human body uses to build proteins. These are classified as essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. For best health, the body needs all the essential amino acids in right ratios.
The amino acid profile varies in plant proteins and animal proteins. Experts say that animal proteins have a good balance of all the amino acids needed by the body to function properly. On the other hand, plant proteins are low on certain amino acids like methionine, tryptophan, lycine and isoleucine.

What is Plant Protein?

The protein we can intake as part of a vegan or dairy-free diet, is considered a form of plant protein. From vegetables to nuts to seeds and various other herb or plant-based sources are a way to get your protein intake without consuming anything that is an animal-based source. Plant protein, in comparison to animal protein, is not considered that high in quality, especially when it comes to professional fitness or bodybuilding. However, that certainly does not mean that plant protein sources are low in value. Infact, consuming plant protein is one of the best ways to easily compensate your daily protein requirement without going the lengths of cooking an animal protein and then consuming it. Plant protein is easily digestible and may prove cost effective too.
Let’s have a quick look at some of the rich sources of Plant Proteins that you have easily include in your daily diet.

Sources of Plant Proteins

Some of the rich sources of plant protein are –
1. Lentils
2. Quinoa
3. Hemp seeds
4. Nuts
5. Spirulina
6. Chia seeds
7. Potato
8. Soy
9. Peas
10. Avocado
11. Broccoli
12. Pumpkin seeds
13. Spinach
14. Brussels sprouts
15. Tofu
16. Beans
17. Chickpeas
18. Corn

What is an Animal Protein?

Animal protein sources like meat, chicken, eggs, dairy, and fish are similar to proteins found in our body. They are complete sources of protein because they contain all the nine essential amino acids that the human body needs to function properly.

(Source – Womanista)

Plant proteins are considered incomplete because they lack one or more major amino acid. But you can eat plant proteins in combinations to compensate for the lost amino acids.

Some of the Richest Sources of Animal Protein are –

1. Chicken
2. Seafood
3. Lamb
4. Mutton
5. Eggs
6. Turkey
7. Dairy products
Skinless chicken is a high source of protein. It is always recommended that you should have unprocessed chicken or turkey to limit your sodium intake. It will provide a healthy boost of protein and help gain lean muscle.
Fish provides not just protein, but heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as well. You can cook up a high protein soup with tomatoes and fish, or add fish to brown rice and cook with olive oil and spices for a boost of protein.
The protein in eggs is considered to be very high quality. It has the right ratio of amino acids ideally needed by the body. One whole egg contains about 6.3g of animal protein, with 3.6g of protein in egg white and 2.7g in egg yolk. The yolk does contain saturated fat and cholesterol, but it is also high in vitamin D and iron. Having eggs in breakfast will give your day a powerful start.
(Source – Rodale Wellness)

Nutrients Higher in Animal Protein

Studies show that animal protein sources have a higher nutrient value as compared to plant protein sources. The nutrients lacking in plant protein sources include –

· Vitamin D

The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight, but it is also found in fish, eggs, and dairy. Some plant protein sources do have a certain amount of Vitamin D, but the Vitamin D provided by animal protein sources is considered better for the body.

· Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is mainly found in meat, fish, and poultry. People who avoid these categories of foods are usually deficient of Vitamin B12.

· Heme – Iron 

Heme iron is mainly found in meat, especially red meat. Experts believe that heme-iron is absorbed by the body in a better manner than non-heme iron obtained from plant protein sources.


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential omega-3 fatty acid which is mainly found in fatty fish. DHA plays an important role in development of brain, and it is usually difficult to get DHA from plant protein sources.

· Zinc

Zinc is usually found in animal meat like lamb, pork, and beef. It is also more easily absorbed from animal sources as compared to plant sources.
There are plenty of nutrients that are present in plant protein sources and are lacking from animal protein sources. It is recommended that you should eat a healthy balanced diet with a mix of both plant and animal sources.

Benefits of a Diet Rich in Plant Proteins

People from across the world are making a conscious effort to switch to a vegetarian diet. It is linked with various health benefits. Some of them are discussed below.

1. Lowers the risk of heart diseases 

A study revealed that a diet rich in plant proteins lowered blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk of heart diseases, as compared to a healthy high-carb diet.
Experts have also found that a low-carb, high plant protein diet helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol as compared to high-carb, low-fat diet.

2. Prevents obesity 

Red meat or other animal protein sources are also high sources of fat. A diet rich in meat, lack of physical exercise, and modern lifestyle combined together can lead to obesity. And we all know that obesity is the root cause of various health problems like hypertension, joint pains, high cholesterol, and heart diseases.

3. Helps keep your weight in check 

If you are on a weight loss session, it is recommended that you eat more of plant protein than animal proteins. Eating one serving of beans, chickpeas, lentils, or peas per day can increase fullness which would help you in weight management.
 (Source – eat this not that)

4. Lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes 

A study done on a small number of people with type 2 diabetes revealed that replacing 2 servings of red meat with legumes 3 days per week improved their cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Benefits of Animal Proteins

Animal proteins are also associated with positive health effects. A study done on men showed that those who regularly ate one or more serving of fish per week have 15% lower risk of heart diseases.
Some of the most common benefits of animal proteins include the following –
1. The Nurse’s Health study revealed that poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy are associated with reduced risk of heart diseases.
2. Eating eggs is linked to improved cholesterol levels and weight loss.
3. People who eat fish regularly are likely to have a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other heart diseases.
4. Eating animal protein is also linked to increasing lean muscle mass and reduction of muscle loss that occurs with age.
In the debate of plant protein vs. animal protein, we cannot choose one side. If plant sources have health benefits, animal protein sources are also rich in nutrients. Taking a balanced mix of both is what is recommended for a happy and healthy you.
The health hazard of saturated fat contained in animal protein sources is most harmful. Take that aspect out, use skimmed milk, eat skinless chicken or fish instead of red meat etc. and animal protein will do a lot of benefit for your body. It is best to have both animal and plant proteins.