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Food Trends: Plant vs. Animal Protein

In my practice I see a lot of vegetarians who have a lot of questions about the types of protein they eat.  In case you need a refresher, animal proteins are proteins derived from meat, dairy, and eggs.  Plant protein is derived from nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and soy.  Most animal proteins are higher in saturated fat as well as cholesterol which have been proved to increase risks of arteriosclerosis, a precursor to cardiovascular disease.  A lot of the general public, not just vegetarians, are starting to focus on decreasing intakes of animal proteins and focusing on plant sources to decrease total calorie, fat, and cholesterol intake. 

It’s important to know that most generally healthy individuals only need .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.  Basically this means that a 150 pound man or woman requires about 54 grams of protein in an entire day.

Protein is made from amino acids.  Although there are many amino acids, there are nine that our bodies cannot produce on their own.  These nine amino acids become essential, meaning we need to consume them from animal or plant products.  Amino Acids are very important as they are the building blocks that make protein in our body.  Our bodies need to make protein for such things as muscles (think heart), hair, skin, eyes, and other organs.

In the past you may have heard the terms complete and incomplete protein.  A complete protein is basically a product that provides all the essential amino acids we need, where an incomplete protein has a smaller proportion or less percentage of all the essential amino acids.  For the most part, animal products are more complete than plant products.  This brought on a lot of concern years ago about plant based diets providing too little of the complete proteins.  Diet books were written, research was completed, and the general public went mad trying to pair their food appropriately to eat a complete protein diet.

It’s important to note, that almost all foods have protein.  Not only do your nuts, seeds, legumes, and animal products have protein, but so do your grains, vegetables, and fruits.  My advice is ‘out with the old and in with the new theory.’  If you eat a largely plant based diet and count on these foods to provide you with the protein you need, focus on eating a variety of foods at each meal.  If you pair different plant based products together you are more apt to make an incomplete protein meal more complete.  I always suggest focusing on eating a meal that consists of veggies, beans, and grains all at one time.  This will not only insure you are receiving the right amounts of amino acids and protein, but it will also increase your vitamin and mineral intake.

Not sure how much protein is in each type of  plant or animal product?  Take a look below:

Plant food
Animal food
1 c
41 g
Hamburger Patty
4 oz
28 g
3 oz
31 g
3.5 oz
35 g
1 c
18 g
6 oz can
40 g
9 g
Cuts of beef
3 oz
21 g
4 oz
3.5 oz
6 g
Peanut butter
2 T
8 g
3 oz
22 g
Soy Milk
1 c
7 g
1 oz
6-10 g
Brown Rice
1 c
8 oz
8 g
1 c
5 g
1 c
8-12 g

After reviewing the chart above you can see it doesn’t take a lot to get to recommended requirements.  Do any of you have any good recipes that contain any of the ingredients above?  We’re always looking for some new recipes to share with the Kindred Community.  Post it here or email me at 
Quinoa- one of the most complete plant based proteins


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