Is plant protein superior to animal protein?


Sausage dynamite

Which protein is best is another story, and unfortunately, the answer is quite tribal. Many carnivores often default to the position that meat provides the most beneficial nutrient profile—the very term “protein” is freely exchanged for “meat.” On the flip side, forget about trying to source information from most vegan or holistic blogs. All you’ll (falsely) learn is that meat consumption is the most toxic act imaginable, or other heinous ideas, like eggs being as bad for you as cigarettes.

Let’s begin with two basic and indisputable facts:

  • Plants, nuts, and seeds provide enough protein to subsist on. Evolutionarily speaking, early animals needed to consume plants. There’s a reason the healthiest meats are “grass fed.” Fish, often considered the best source of meat (mercury problem aside), acquire their nutrient profile from aquatic plants.
  • Humans have long eaten animals. We’ve even eaten other families of human, and not just Neanderthals. While most Americans can afford a plant-based diet, other nations’ infrastructures (and cultures) are not equipped to handle such profound dietary changes. Meat is not toxic, though the industrial farming industry has inarguably created much unnecessary suffering and, along the way, a much less healthy product.
  • Stepping into this long-standing discussion, Popular Science recently declared plant protein to be superior. While it certainly may well be—few argue more dietary meat is better as a general guideline—let’s investigate the major points.

    Nutrients and fiber

    The author, Sara Chodosh, writes that while plants not only have most (but not all; specifically B12) of the nutrients meat provides, one essential carbohydrate is missing from meat: fiber. Duke University cardiology fellow Haider Warraich writes that constipation is an “American epidemic.” Every year, over 700,000 Americans visit the ER due to an inability to defecate. Millions more suffer from this issue.

    Diet is the foremost reason, though, as Warraich points out, medications, especially opioids, also cause constipation. Humans need to consume plenty of roughage. Fiber not only helps digestion, Chodosh writes, but also “promotes a healthy gut microbiome and is strongly associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk.” She notes that plants offer more nutrients through fewer calories. For this reason, alone we should consider deriving most protein from plants.

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