Proteins are crucial parts in our body. They make up about 20% of the human body and are broken down there into 21 different amino acids. These amino acids each fulfill important functions in our body. A distinction is made between essential and non-essential amino acids, because the human body can make the non-essential amino acids itself. However, there are nine amino acids that the body cannot make itself, so they are essential to get through our diet. In order to make these essential amino acids available to your body, you have to eat proteins (protein). Proteins are in turn subdivided into animal and vegetable proteins, but what is the difference between these protein sources?
Proteins are composed of different amino acids. This composition differs per protein source. Usually proteins from an animal source contain all nine essential amino acids, which means that it is a complete protein source. Unlike animal proteins, vegetable proteins usually do not contain all nine essential amino acids, so proteins from a vegetable source are labeled as incomplete. An exception with regard to vegetable protein sources is hemp seed, which is a complete protein source. Yet this should not be a problem for people who (want to) eat little or no animal products, since with a varied diet you can easily get different vegetable protein sources that complement each other in terms of amino acids. Examples of plant-based products with a high protein content include soybeans, peanuts, lentils and chia seeds.
Another difference between animal and vegetable proteins has to do with the so-called ‘biological value’ of a protein source. The biological value of a product refers to how well the body can use the proteins after ingestion. Most animal proteins have a higher biological value than vegetable proteins. The reason for this is that the composition of amino acids in animal proteins is very similar to the composition in our own body. This greatly improves the efficiency of the processing process. However, this does not mean that animal protein sources are always better than vegetable sources. Many scientific studies show that eating (too) many animal proteins can be associated with various (lifestyle) diseases, such as elevated cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and various forms of cancer. This is why it is so important to pursue a balanced and varied diet in combination with a healthy lifestyle. This ensures an optimal internal balance and a strong resistance to external pathogens.