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The Key Differences Between Plant Protein and Animal Protein

The Key Differences Between Plant Protein and Animal Protein


The importance of protein in nutrition and health is unquestionable. Especially in the battle against COVID-19, it has been recognized that sufficient protein intake is crucial for maintaining normal immune function and enhancing resistance. The main differences between plant protein and animal protein are as follows.


The structure and mode of existence of plant protein and animal protein are different

From the perspective of protein molecules, proteins are chains of amino acids that are connected together (primary structure), the chains form helices or folds (secondary structure), which further wrap into domains (tertiary structure), and various domains combine together in a certain pattern (quaternary structure). The secondary structure of plant proteins is mainly β-folds, while animal proteins are mainly α-helices. From the perspective of the existence state of proteins in food, plant proteins are often combined with carbohydrates (non-starch polysaccharides and dietary fiber), while animal proteins mainly coexist with fats.

These factors bring about differences in the nutritional value of plant protein and animal protein. For example, the intake of animal protein is often accompanied by a large amount of saturated fat intake; consuming soy includes not only soy protein but also functional components such as dietary fiber, isoflavones, and soy phospholipids. The human body's demand for protein is first a sufficient amount, and second, it requires the "quality" of the protein. Protein that fully meets the nutritional needs of the body is considered high-quality protein. We need dietary protein to provide 20 types of amino acids; if these amino acids are not sufficient, some can be "borrowed," while others must be obtained from food. The microscopic and macroscopic composition of proteins is also the main reason why different proteins have unique flavors.

Plant protein and animal protein have different digestion rates

Digestibility refers to the degree to which protein is decomposed by digestive enzymes and the degree to which amino acids and peptides are absorbed after digestion. The more food is absorbed by the body, the higher its nutritional value. Egg white protein is often used as a reference protein, with a digestibility of 100%. The universally recognized index for measuring protein quality is the "protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score," with a maximum score of 1. Natural plant protein often coexists with antinutritional factors such as phytic acid, protease inhibitors, plant hemagglutinins, and tannic acid, which affect protein digestion. In addition to structural differences, the digestibility rate of plant protein is often lower than that of animal protein. Therefore, food processing is particularly important for improving the digestibility and utilization of plant protein. Simply cooking food can increase the protein utilization rate by 18%. The digestibility rate of soy flour is only 80%, while isolated soy protein can reach 98%.

Plant protein and animal protein have different health effects

Compared with animal protein, plant protein has more health benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. For example, milk protein has the function of controlling body weight and reducing triglycerides, and compared with milk protein, isolated soy protein has a more significant lipid-lowering effect; soy protein also has the functions of reducing blood pressure, improving insulin sensitivity, and reducing the level of inflammation in the body. Consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Plant protein and animal protein have different environmental impacts and sustainability

Compared with animal protein, healthy plant protein has obvious advantages in terms of environmental protection and sustainability. For example, the production of 1 kilogram of isolated soy protein emits 2.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the environment, while the production of the same amount of beef protein is 178 kilograms! The greenhouse gas emissions of other animal proteins such as chicken and pork are also much higher than soy. The production of 1 kilogram of isolated soy protein requires 8 square meters of farmland for one year, while beef protein requires 1311 square meters!

" Plant-based meat" is a meat substitute that is made from plants and can be produced by scientific and technological means, lts essence is a more sustainable industrial production, instead of animal agriculture that contributes around 15 percent of global greenhouse emissions, "Natural plant-based meat". can be free from traditional meat .industry'sprocesses of breeding and slaughtering, leading to a healthier and more low-carbon solution.

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