You’ve probably heard animal protein called “high-quality” protein. Here is why that is a load of bull (pun intended).
How Pro-Meat Defines Quality
Meat’s supposed quality is based on it being a “complete” protein. Proteins are made up of a string of building blocks called amino acids. Some amino acids are called “essential” because they cannot be made by our bodies and therefor must be obtained through food. Animal proteins are called “complete” because they contain all the essential amino acids (unlike most plant proteins). So, the pro-meat philosophy says animal protein is best because it contains all the amino acids we need.
Here’s the catch: our bodies are smarter than that- they don’t need us to package everything up for them! When we eat food, our bodies break down strings of proteins and put all the building blocks (amino acids) into a pool. Our bodies can then pull the building blocks needed from the pool to rebuild strings of proteins. So it doesn’t matter whether a food has every amino acid or not- your body will build its own complete proteins!
As long as you are eating a variety of plant foods, your body can build all the proteins it needs.
How I Define Quality
To me, high quality means the merits of something drastically outweigh its consequences. In this light, plant proteins win by a landslide. Read on for the top four reasons why plant proteins are higher quality than animal proteins.
Four Reasons Why Plant Protein is Higher Quality Than Animal Protein
It’s perfectly packaged
Plant protein contains all the goodies- fiber, water, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants- without all the hazards- saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and overall calories. Animal protein is basically the exact opposite.
It’s linked to disease prevention
People who eat mostly plant protein have lower total cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and are less likely to have type II diabetes. (vegetarian men in particular are 80% less likely to have diabetes!) Soy foods, which are high in plant protein, are linked to lower cancer rates, and beans and legumes are staples in diets of centenarians.
It’s linked to healthy weight and weight-loss (regardless of calories and carbohydrates)
People who eat mostly plant plant protein weigh less and weight loss diets based primarily on plant foods are more effective. Plant-based diets tend to be higher in carbohydrates, yet plant eaters lose weight faster than meat eaters despite eating more carbs! A recent study also showed that with calories held constant across several different weight loss diets, the plant-rich diets were most effective at spurring weight loss.
Gram for gram, plant proteins are cheaper than animal proteins. For example, you pay 4 cents per gram of protein from ground beef vs. just 1 cent per gram of protein from beans!