While vegans and vegetarians can get some protein from plant-based foods, this is not the best way to fulfill your daily protein needs. Instead, every person should consider getting some of their protein from meat and other foods derived from animals. This overview explains why this is the best method for getting the protein you need.
Why Do We Need Protein?
Our bodies are made up of amino acids, which link together to form proteins. In turn, those proteins feed the cells to maintain their health and help the body to create new, healthy cells. When you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, or when you’re failing to eat foods with high concentrations of amino acids, you’re disrupting this process. The body relies on essential amino acids, and those compounds can only be derived from the food we eat. Once there is a sufficient supply of protein, the body can break it down to create nonessential amino acids and conditional amino acids. Conditional amino acids are vital in helping the immune system fight off illnesses and defend against stress hormones.
Animal-based sources of protein include:
- Lean red meat
Plant-based sources of protein include:
- Beans and legumes
Why is Animal-Based Protein Better?
In all, there are 20 different distinct amino acids that your body needs in order to maintain the health of your cells. Foods that contain all 20 amino acids are said to be complete sources of protein. Primarily, complete sources of protein are animal-based products. While beans, legumes, and soy do provide some of the 20 amino acids your body needs, these foods are considered incomplete sources of protein.
Additionally, plant-based protein sources lack certain key nutrients. Your body needs these nutrients to ensure efficient organ function and to maintain overall health. For instance, iron is found in red meat and used by the body to produce the hemoglobin in red blood cells. Plant-based foods are not sufficient sources of iron. This is just one example of the nutrients found in animal-based protein sources that your body needs.
What Nutrients Are Abundantly Found in Animal-Based Foods?
This nutrient is found in high quantities in fish, poultry, and meat. It can also be found in dairy products and fortified cereals. Vitamin B12 is helpful in the formation of DNA in the body. It also helps prevent megaloblastic anemia.
Although the best source of vitamin D is sunlight exposure, too much time in the sun raises your risks of skin cancer. The next best sources come from oily fish, eggs, and other dairy products. Your body uses vitamin D to help regulate calcium and phosphate, which, in turn, strengthen bones and muscle tissue.
Beef, lamb, and pork are exceptionally good sources of zinc. This nutrient is essential in maintaining a strong immune system. Zinc also aids in the creation of DNA, so it’s good for development.
If you are vegan and prefer to maintain your current diet, you should consult your doctor about supplementing your intake of plant-based foods. There may be dietary supplements or other means of getting a higher concentration of protein, vitamins, and minerals to help you maintain your health.