Protein plays a huge role in our daily lives and diet. Since your body does not store protein, you need to incorporate it into your diet every day. Most commonly, when people hear “protein,” they think you have to get it from meat. However, there are many more ways to incorporate protein into your diet through plants. This prompts the question though, is plant-based protein a healthier and better option?
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
You may ask yourself, “protein is protein, why does it matter where it comes from?” It’s in the breakdown of the protein. When you eat protein, it is broken down into amino acids. Depending on where the protein comes from (animal or plants), it will break down into different amino acid complexes.
WHY AMINO ACIDS MATTER
A complete supply of all 20 amino acids is needed to maintain a healthy body. Amino acids perform a number of functions and are crucial to the growth and development of our bodies by building and repairing the body’s various cells and tissues (including your organs, bone, skin, and muscles). Without all of the necessary amino acids, our cells and tissues would recover much slower–or not at all. Animal proteins tend to contain a good balance of amino acids that we need, while plant proteins might be lower in some areas.
However, half of these amino acids are produced by our bodies, called “non-essential” amino acids. So you won’t need to get these from your diet. The other half, which our bodies cannot produce, are called “essential” amino acids. These are the ones that you’ll need to get from your diet. The real differences between plant-based and animal-based proteins come from the other molecules.
The most commonly cited reason why plant-based proteins are inferior to animal-based proteins is that there are few that are complete sources of amino acids. However, this drawback is easily solved by simply consuming multiple plant-based proteins. It really is just that easy! For example, grains and nuts together are a complete source of amino acids. Or you could just have a plant-based food that is a complete source on its own, like quinoa or buckwheat. You can even find plant-based protein powders that combine multiple sources of plant-based protein to offer a powder that matches the amino acid profile of whey protein, but without the intolerance, digestive, and health issues many people face with it. We recommend starting with ATAQ protein powders.
Most plant proteins that aren’t complete protein sources themselves are complementary to one another, meaning that what one source lacks can be found easily in a complementary food product. For example, grains lack the amino acid lysine, while nuts lack the amino acid methionine. Easy fix- make a PB&J on wheat bread and you now have a complete source of amino acids!
Here are some common complete plant-based sources of protein:
As long as you vary the types of plants you consume, you will have no problem getting all the amino acids you need. You don’t even need to eat them all at once, you can space it out through the day.
Apart from the rarity of vitamin B12 and vitamin D in plants (Vitamin D can be produced simply by exposure to sunlight and Vitamins B12 and D can be found in fortified cereals or most soy products), there are no other drawbacks to plant-based proteins–and there are a variety of benefits.
Studies show that a vegetarian or vegan diet likely leads to weight loss when used over a medium/long period of time. Other studies show that vegetarian and vegan diets have a lower risk for type-2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease–as well as lower cholesterol.
Plants are also the only source of fiber, an important nutrient for digestion and maintaining a healthy stool. Fiber also improves the efficiency of your gut, which means that you’ll be able to extract more nutrients from the food you eat. This means more vitamins and nutrients from less food. There is also a body of evidence indicating that a plant-heavy diet reduces the risk of cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
Finally, plant-based foods are high in antioxidants and “phytochemicals”, which help support your immune system. These molecules also work to neutralize toxins from pollution, processed foods, and disease.
In general, all of these benefits essentially roll into one major benefit: living longer. The longer you have a diet low in or free of meat, the more time these benefits will have to help improve your health.
One animal-based protein claim is that a majority are a complete supply of amino acids. Meaning, you don’t need to consume multiple protein sources to get all the amino acids you require. Animal proteins may also contain vitamins or minerals like vitamin B12, vitamin D and zinc.
In the world of protein powders- a common source of animal-based protein is whey protein. Whey is isolated from dairy products and is known to be quickly absorbed by the body–it is also a complete source of protein. A great alternative to this is ATAQ protein powders, using a variety of plant-based sources to match whey protein as close as possible.
Unfortunately for animal-based proteins, this is about where the benefits end. There are many things to consider when opting for a steak. Although it will be high in protein, as well as a complete source of amino acids, it may also lead to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, or early death.
This link is strongest with processed meats, which tend to have much more salt and saturated fats. Unprocessed meats are much healthier than their processed counterparts, although some studies still show an increased risk of stroke.
ANIMAL-BASED PROTEIN: ENVIRONMENTAL AND ANIMAL FACTORS
With the individual health benefits in mind, there are two major issues when it comes to animal protein sources- the environment and animal abuse. The domestication of livestock contributes more greenhouse gasses than all of the world’s transportation systems combined. Next, while the estimates vary, a safe middle estimate is that it takes around 3,600,000 gallons of water to produce one ton of beef. In contrast, soy only uses 1/8th of the water as beef, and corn only about 1/16th.
The use of land for livestock is also tremendously inefficient. It takes 20 times more land to produce enough food to feed someone with meat, and the meat industry making the living conditions for the animals unbearable and treated extremely poorly. They often live their entire lives in a pen or cage with little or no room to move. Many cattle farms put their cows in a box the same size as their body. By preventing any movement (apart from when they are led to the slaughterhouse), the cows cannot build any muscle–making the meat more tender. In addition, the baby cows are taken away from their mothers seconds after birth to make veal. There have been reports shown that the mother cows then mourn the loss of their calf.
We believe people should consume products that they trust and work for them, whether this means using plant-based or animal-based proteins. Living a more active lifestyle, you might need to adjust your diet accordingly.
However, for the multitude of reasons mentioned above, we also believe that if you are not that passionate about animal proteins than plant-based option is definitely the better way to go. Plant-based foods are almost universally healthier than animal-based foods and there are massive environmental benefits in reducing animal farming and meat production.
It’s important to find plant-based protein and plant-based products that support our bodies to be as healthy as possible and perform at its highest level. ATAQ is a plant-based sports and nutrition company based out of Southern California that invests heavily in research in development to make sure their products don’t sacrifice performance in exchange for health benefits. They make the #1 plant-based protein powder, using 6 different sources of plants to match the amino acid of whey as closely as possible, maximizing your recovery but without the environmental and health issues. Their customers rave about how easy their protein is on the digestive track and doesn’t flare up any intolerances. In addition, you can check out their other recovery and performance products including: electrolyte hydration mixes, raw energy bars, RTD booster shots and more! In fact, their Recovery & Immune Booster Shot has a proprietary ingredient Wellmune®, clinically proven to help strengthen the immune system and reduce the severity and duration of upper respiratory tract infection symptoms.
Use code (QUANTA30) for 30% off your first order!
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