Comparison of vegetable protein and animal protein from the perspective of nutrition

Many food and health products will emphasize that they are plant/animal protein/fat, suggesting that they are healthier or better absorbed. But after protein digestion, are not all amino acids and fats are all fatty acids? In terms of nutrition, what is the significance of this distinction?

In fact, the most critical point to answer this question is that amino acids are different from fatty acids. There are 20 types of amino acids, of which 9 are not synthesized by the human body and must be ingested through food. But the pros and cons of protein are indeed quite knowledgeable, let’s talk about it in detail below.

1. Before comparing plant protein and animal protein, take a look at what foods are rich in protein.

Among the common foods, protein foods can be divided into animal protein and plant protein:

Animal protein: meat (beef, mutton, pork, chicken), fish, eggs and dairy products

Plant protein: staple foods such as soybeans, tofu, other beans, rice and wheat also contain a small amount of protein.

These protein-rich foods are very different in other nutrients. For example, meat has higher fat content, while dairy products are rich in calcium, and beans are rich in dietary fiber. Therefore, from the perspective of a balanced diet, take a variety of foods. Protein in food is very important, but protein itself has its advantages and disadvantages.

2. How to compare the quality of protein?

There are two main factors to compare the quality of protein: the amino acid composition (including content and type) and the digestibility of the protein.

⑴ Amino acid composition

Amino acid content, protein energy/total energy ratio: The energy provided by different food proteins is different. Generally speaking, animal protein has a higher protein/energy ratio than plant protein.

Types of amino acids: Amino acids are the basic building blocks of protein. There are 20 types in total. Among them, 9 are the “essential amino acids” that the human body cannot synthesize and must obtain from food. The content of the most ideal protein essential amino acids is close to that of the human body. Conducive to human protein synthesis.

Animal protein: It is a complete protein, which can provide all 9 essential amino acids.

Plant protein: usually lacks one or several essential amino acids, especially lysine, the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine, and threonine. But soy protein is a “complete protein”.

⑵ Restricted amino acids

Whether protein can be used by the body does not depend on the most abundant amino acid, but often depends on the least amino acid. This is the “barrel effect” of amino acids. How much water the barrel can hold depends on the shortest piece of wood, and the “restricted amino acid”, the essential amino acid with the least content, refers to the short board in protein. For example, the restricted amino acid of rice is lysine, and corn lacks tryptophan.

⑶ Digestibility of protein

Digestibility refers to the ability of the amino acids in protein to be absorbed and utilized by the body.

Highest digestibility: animal protein, low-gluten flour, peanuts and soybeans (94-99% digestibility).

Low digestibility: other legumes (72-84%)

The good news is that cooking and processing can make the protein in food better absorbed. Therefore, plant-based protein requires more processing and cooking steps to become well absorbed.

3. A bonus point at the end: how much protein is needed every day

How much protein do we need every day?

“2013 Edition of Chinese Residents’ Dietary Nutrient Reference Intake”:

It is recommended that adults between 18-50 years old have a protein intake of 65g for men and 55g for women.

“U.S. Dietary Nutrient Guidelines”: It is recommended that daily protein intake (g) = body weight (kg) × 0.8 for adults with light physical labor.

However, people who lose weight need to consume more protein every day. Can save more muscle and lose more fat.