We need protein: It performs a lot of important jobs in the body such as building muscles, organs, and connective tissues, and repairing them all while playing a role in metabolism, digestion, our immune system, and more.
Luckily, protein is easy to come by — it’s in almost everything we eat.
Most conversations about protein usually start with how important meat, dairy, fish, and eggs are for protein intake, and while they offer quite a lot of protein, they aren’t actually the original source of the essential amino acids we need.
Since animals eat plants to get their protein, when we eat meat we are consuming the bioaccumulation of what was once plants.
Therefore, eating plant protein eliminates the middleman, going directly to the source. Vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds all provide protein, just in smaller doses.
How Does Our Body Process Protein?
Plants are able to assemble all of the different amino acids from carbon dioxide, water, and other minerals absorbed from the air and soil.
Animals (including us), however, are not able to do that, so we must get protein from our food.
During digestion, our bodies break apart protein into amino acids, and then reassemble these amino acids to suit our individual needs.
Plants provide adequate protein because most of them contain all of the nine essential amino acids that we can only get from the food we eat.
Some plants may not have all nine, but if you eat a wide range of plants, you’ll be sure to consume all of the essential amino acids necessary for good health.
You don’t have to make sure you’re getting all of the complete amino acids in every single meal. Instead, your body digests the food and breaks up the protein into the individual amino acids.
Once they are absorbed, your body reassembles them in your cells based on what it needs.
Another cool thing? Your body actually recycles many of its amino acids. It doesn’t want to get rid of them.
So whatever you’re eating throughout the week is contributing to your total amino acid profile and allows your body to build the protein it needs, whether it’s building muscle or repairing organs.
Which Is a Better Source of Protein: Meat or Plants?
If you’re wondering if one protein source is better than another, you’re not alone.
Researchers ask the same question and a 2017 study found that plant-based protein is as beneficial to muscle mass and strength as protein from meat.
Consider going straight to the source for your protein! Switch out some of your animal protein for plant protein and you’ll be exchanging it for a version of protein that is easier on your body.