Author: Jeannie Mai
Proteins exist in all parts of the body, including bones, skin, muscles and hair. Proteins contain essential amino acids that can help the body build muscles and recover quickly from strenuous exercise. Although proteins are necessary for the body for growth and maintenance, the body does not store proteins like other nutrients. This is why proteins are an essential part of the dietary intake.
Animal-based protein from eggs, meat, and milk is the most popular option that many fitness enthusiasts go for, due to smart marketing. Athletes opt for consuming whey protein powder to maintain optimal performance and health. But plant based protein obtained from peas, hemp, quinoa, lentils, brown rice etc., provides equal if not more nutrients essential to manage weight, increase muscle mass, improve strength or lose fat. But there are key differences in their contents, and how they affect the body and the environment.
Impact on Health
A recent study shows that vegan protein may be significantly superior to its animal-based substitutes. A study published in 2018, in the International Journal of Epidemiology, shows that higher consumption of meat-based protein poses a higher risk of developing cardiovascular issues and even death. The results advocate the intake of plant proteins obtained from nuts and seeds to form a healthier everyday diet.
Research also shows that higher levels of IGF-1 caused by animal protein potentially increases the risk of developing cancer and age-related diseases. Another study published in 2003 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that lower meat consumption is related to greater longevity. In contrast, higher consumption of plant-based diet is directly proportional to higher life expectancy.
Impact on Digestion and Calorie Count
Digestive issues, stomach cramps, bloating, and gas are some of the most common side effects of whey protein, especially for lactose-intolerant people. Plant-based proteins are beneficial for people as they are lactose-free, causing less inflammation in the digestive system. Our bodies metabolise plant proteins at a slower rate than animal protein, keeping people satisfied for longer. Proteins derived from animals have higher fat and calorie content than their plant alternatives. Therefore, consuming plant-based protein powders can help lose weight more effectively.
Consumption of Unwanted Harmful Ingredients
Intake of animal protein comes with consuming harmful bacteria and animal hormones that could affect the body. The body would absorb hormones, antibiotics and bacterial strains like salmonella causing infection. Incorporating plant protein instead reduces the risk of consuming harmful chemicals that could be unnatural for the body. Instead, it allows for effective digestion creating a healthy gut microbiome.
Source of Iron Consumption
Nutritionists consider meat and other animal sources of food as excellent sources of iron. But pea protein powder provides just as much iron required by the body. The body receives 35% of the daily requirement of iron by one serving of plant-based protein powder. In comparison, animal-based protein provides 0% of the protein’s daily requirement with the same serving size.
Impact on the Environment
Plant-based protein, when obtained from organic farming methods helps fight global warming. It also helps add minerals and other essential nutrients to the soil leading to higher sustainability. This ensures that the body and the earth are healthy at the same time. The amount of milk required to create animal-based protein is high. Therefore, some companies feed hormones and antibiotics to cows to increase milk production, which may cause harm to animals and humans.
Therefore, when it comes to well-being, purity, healthy diet and environmental impact, plant-based protein definitely rates higher than its animal counterpart.