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What is the difference between animal and plant proteins?

The quality of protein depends on the composition of amino acids

Whether a protein is better or worse for our body depends on the amino acid composition, the basic structure from the decomposition of them.

Animal proteins enjoy a good balance of all essential amino acids. On the other hand, some vegetable proteins have low concentrations in some of them, something that is not so positive.

Among these amino acids of vegetable origin, more important amounts of lysine, isoleucine, methionine and tryptophan are missing.

Depending on the concentration and presence of amino acids, the quality of the protein is defined.

Therefore, at the level of amino acid balance, it can be concluded that animal proteins offer better benefits than vegetable proteins.

Our body needs 20 amino acids continuously to produce protein and build muscle mass.

Our body, after years and years of evolution, has the ability to produce amino acids, but not all. Therefore, it is necessary to introduce them through our diet.

The ideal is a balanced diet where we introduce the total diversity of amino acids we need.

One complete protein source it is the one capable of covering all the needs of amino acids, and in this, they have those of animal origin to win.

We can find them in abundant quantities in dairy, eggs, poultry and fish.

The main source of plant-based proteins are provided by legumes and nuts, although there are deficiencies of some amino acids.

Of all the proteins obtained from vegetables, soy is considered to offer a better balance of amino acids.

On the other hand, it has the problem that the protein concentration is noticeably lower than that provided by any other source of animal protein.

Most animal proteins cover all sources of amino acids. In the case of vegetables, even soy, which is considered the best source of vegetable protein, is deficient in several amino acids.

Proteins + vitamins: the winning combination

As for the nutritional contribution of the different sources of protein, it is ideal that they are also linked to additional nutrients, something that in the case of animal proteins, they also have to gain.

Why do we say this? For the following:

Vitamin sources:

Vitamin d

This vitamin can be found in significant amounts in eggs, dairy and oily fish.

Also, but to a lesser extent, in some plants, with less absorption.

Vitamin B12

It can also be found in eggs, dairy and oily fish. The vegan diet needs supplements of this vitamin, since there is no concentrated source in the plant kingdom.


We can divide iron by heme or non-heme type, the first being the easiest to absorb.

This iron can be found in high amounts in animals, especially in the red meat.

On the other hand, non-heme iron, which is more difficult to absorb, is found in a wide list of vegetables.


Zinc is a very important mineral in the physiological regulation of the organism. It is found in high concentrations in pork, beef and lamb.

Although there are also fruits and vegetables with high concentrations of zinc, their absorption is more limited than in the first case.

This does not mean that we abuse the consumption of animals and fish to the detriment of vegetables, since there are many elements that only vegetables are able to provide (among them, most vitamins).

Foods of animal origin contain more nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B12 and minerals such as iron and zinc.

Plant proteins are healthier than some animal proteins

Although proteins of animal origin are more complete than vegetable proteins, this does not mean that they have added risk factors related to heart disease, premature death and different types of cancer.

It does not occur in all animal protein sources but yes, for example the in red meat. [Source of information]

It is still being analyzed whether this negative effect happens with all sources of red meat or only those that are processed. In studies to date, the information obtained included products at risk of disease, especially processed meats. [Source of information]

Type 2 diabetes

In the case where a lot of animal protein is consumed, it has been concluded that the consumption of protein vegetables (especially legumes) that replace foods rich in red meat, favors a decrease in cholesterol and accumulated blood sugar. [Additional information]

Is a high-protein diet healthy?

Delving into the concentration of proteins and their benefit in our diet, the question arises of what is the ideal amount in our diet.

There are several studies that have tried to delve into this question, finding that a diet rich in protein (half plants and half of animal origin) reduces cholesterol levels, risks of heart disease and blood pressure, compared to those with higher carbohydrate content. [See information additional]

It is very important to include in this type of diet vegetables that provide up to 50% of proteins, since in them is the key to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels and, with it, a low-fat diet.

Animal protein also has health benefits

Although at the level of diet, vegetable proteins are very interesting for the addition it provides, those of animal origin, as a source of complete amino acids, also provides many benefits.

In many cases, it is labeled as unhealthy, although it is not so and the scientific community shows us.

The consumption of fish as a source of protein is linked to a healthy and healthy diet, with a reduction in the percentage of suffering cerebral infarctions, heart diseases and other diseases considered serious.

Although eggs have always been linked to the contribution of cholesterol, recent scientific studies have strongly rejected this claim.

In addition, as we advance in age, it is important to maintain an adequate level of muscle mass, and animal proteins are the most optimal source to build it.

About Andrew Parkinson

Andrew Parkinson is a highly accomplished pharmacist with a passion for improving healthcare. With a wealth of experience in both community and clinical pharmacy settings, he's known for his dedication to patient well-being. Mr. Parkinson actively engages in medication management, offering personalized solutions and promoting better health outcomes. He has also played a pivotal role in educating patients on proper medication usage and potential interactions. Andrew's commitment to advancing the field of pharmacy and ensuring safe and effective drug therapies has garnered him recognition as a trusted and invaluable healthcare professional, making a positive impact on countless lives.

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