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Difference Between Plant Protein and Animal Protein

Depending on the type of food you consume, your diet may contain more plant or animal protein. Contrary to popular opinion, the source of your protein matters. Both types of protein have their advantages and drawbacks. For optimal nutrient intake, it’s crucial to make a clear distinction between both of them. This piece highlights a clear distinction between both types of protein. 

What is Plant Protein?

Plant protein is the term that describes plant sources of amino acids. Only plants with a reasonable protein content fall in this category. While certain plants have a relatively higher protein level, they may contain more fat or carbohydrates per gram. Plant protein is also known as vegan, vegetarian, or incomplete protein. These nutrient sources lack some of the essential amino acids.

The best sources of plant protein include: 

  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Ezekiel bread
  • Soybean products (edamame and tofu)
  • Wheat
  • Buckwheat
  • Wild rice
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Chia seeds
  • Spirulina 

What is Animal Protein?

Animal protein is a term that describes animal sources of amino acids. In the diet world, they are known as complete proteins because they contain all essential amino acids for bodybuilding and optimal functioning. All animal meat and dairy products are reliable sources of amino acids. The best sources of animal protein include: 

  • Fish and seafood
  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Lean meat
  • Cheese
  • Wild game 
  • Dairy products

Possible Similarities Between Plant Protein and Animal Protein 

When you look closely at plant and animal protein, it’s clear that both serve similar functions. It’s almost impossible to distinguish between both sources in the bloodstream. Protein, obtained from animals or plants, is found in different body parts, including the muscles, organs, skin, and hair. 

Both animal and plant proteins are also made up of amino acids. These amino acids are essential for several body functions. 

Differences Between Plant Protein and Animal Protein

The major difference between plant and animal protein is the amount of essential amino acids they contain. Plant protein does not include all nine essential amino acids, while animal protein does. 

There are 22 types of amino acids. However, the body cannot produce 9 of them. Hence, we rely on diet intake to supply the essential amino acids our bodies need. When different types of protein are ingested into the body, they are broken down into amino acids. Animal protein can supply the required amino acids in the bloodstream, while plant sources can’t. For instance, wheat is relatively low in Lysine. 

Another vital difference is that animal protein boasts considerably better digestibility than plant protein. The digestible indispensable amino acid score (DIAAS) and corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) reveal animal protein is broken down and assimilated into the bloodstream better. Often, plant protein stimulates bowel movement, and undigested amino acids are removed from the body. 

Furthermore, animal protein is relatively costlier than plant protein. 100 grams of tofu, wheat beans, or tofu will cost much less than 100g of beef or chicken. So, it’s easier to fill up your diet with various food items rich in plant protein. 

Plant Protein vs. Animal Protein: Comparison Table


Protein is an essential nutrient for several physiological processes. That’s why it makes sense to learn everything about the different protein sources available to you. Plant and animal protein perform a similar function in the body, but have different characteristics. Go through this article to learn what differentiates both of them. 


Which is better plant protein or animal protein?

It’s hard to decide which is better between plant and animal protein. Yes, plant protein does not contain all essential amino acids but they are considerably cheaper. However, animal protein is a better alternative if you want to build muscle. Ultimately, deciding on plant or animal protein depends on your budget and dietary goals. 

Can you build muscle with plant protein?

Plant protein comes along with fiber content. As a result, it stimulates bowel movement and is not fully assimilated into the body. Therefore, it’s not a great choice to build muscle. Instead, it’s more suited to weight loss diets. 

Why is plant-based protein better?

Plant protein is better than animal protein in terms of cost and versatility. Different servings of plant protein are relatively cheaper than animal protein. Plant protein can also be served in different healthy formats. 

Which source of protein is best absorbed?

Animal protein has a better digestibility than animal protein. The entire amino acid profile will be assimilated into the body. 

What are the disadvantages of plant protein?

Plant protein has a lesser concentration per gram than animal protein. It also lacks some essential amino acids. 

Why animal protein is superior to plant protein?

Animal protein is better than plant protein in terms of amino acid content and digestibility. Rich sources of animal protein often contain all essential amino acids required for several important body functions. Furthermore, there’s no fiber in animal protein sources. So, they are digested in relatively larger quantities.  

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  1. The myth that plant proteins are “incomplete” and must be eaten in conjunction with each other to be “complete” (like you have to eat grains and beans and vegetables together) has been completely debunked. Plant proteins are complete proteins.

    You should also change the part that says “plant protein have less cholesterol than animal proteins” – this is also untrue because animals are the only source of cholesterol. Cholesterol does not exist in any plant. So the statement should read “plant proteins have no cholesterol”. Thanks!

    • Here is a great paper detailed all of the peer-reviewed medical studies that verify that plant proteins are “complete” proteins. http://www.pcrm.org/health/PDFs/faq_protein.pdf

      • We get so mired in this argument that we miss the big picture. Humans are omnivores, not herbivores.

        We have a relatively short digestive tract, and we have only one stomach, not four. Therefore, we do not have the ability that an herbivore does, to capture all the nutrients we need for optimum health and maintain healthy gut flora merely on plants alone.

        I am a nutritional therapist and have been involved in the health and fitness industry for more than 20 years. I have seen a pattern of behavior that consistently produces disease and destruction of the human body and that seems to be rooted in one truth: we disrespect our body’s natural design and our body’s innate intelligence.

        I often use the analogy of the high-performance car.
        Let’s say you have a beautiful brand new Maserati. Would you put cheap unleaded gas in that car? No. Would you put jet fuel in it? No although you might want to. Would you use a cheap Costco brand oil? How about heating oil? No and no. The fact is you would get out the Owner’s Manual and you would find out EXACTLY what kind of fuel and gas that beautiful car needed if you wanted that car to run long and well!

        Oh it might run on the cheap gas and oil. After all, oil is oil! Gas is gas! As long as there is “grease” in the bearings and the moving parts and as long as the engine fires up and moves, who cares! right? Wrong. Anyone who has had the experience of putting the wrong gas in a car knows what I’m talking about. The engine starts to “ping”, engine power is diminished, and the car sputters and stalls. Eventually serious damage and engine failure occurs. Human bodies are no different, and are also extremely more complex.

        Why do we insist on making things so difficult? We are the only animal that does that. You don’t see cows or birds trying to change their diets to something “better”. Left to themselves, they just eat what they are naturally designed to eat. Early man did the same thing. He knew he needed and liked meat and hunted for his meals. He also gathered from the vegetation around him. There was and still is not any food he cannot have and should not eliminate! To do so is to neglect stimulation of that aspect of his digestive system which, over long-term, produces a deficiency which, if not corrected in a timely fashion, leads to disease.

        As a nutritional therapist I see so much digestive dysfunction due to lack of healthy stomach secretion. There are a few reasons why a stomach does not produce healthy HCl and one of them is because it is not stimulated to do so! There is no equivalent to animal-based dietary protein that stimulates good healthy acid production in the stomach. To not do so puts the body in jeopardy of contracting parasites, bacterias, prions and the like which is a nightmare to correct and takes a very long time. We are seeing more parasitic dysbiosis in the U.S. than ever and among all people… not just those who have traveled overseas.

        So that’s it folks. Like it or not. We didn’t design our bodies – God did (or whatever you personally believe is our origin). In order for us to be optimally healthy, other living things have to die – whether it’s a carrot or a cow. But, we can work with the natural world and our bodies with wisdom and respect for them, or not. If not, then we suffer the consequences and they are all around us.
        Again.. we are exquisitely created omnivores. Not herbivores. Work with it and live.

        • Agree with most points, except that God designed our bodies. Nope! We are reliant on meat because of our ancestors, who evolved from apes over millions of years. Humans have the largest brain in relation to body size among all animals. This large brain is very expensive to maintain and requires 25% of the total calories we consume. We came to develop this unique brain because roughly 4 million years ago, thick woodlands in Africa gave way to sparse grasslands and savannas. Our ape-like ancestors were forced to climb down from trees and forage for food on the open grasslands. Fruits and plant food, they were reliant on, became sparse. This led them to consuming meat. Meat has way more calories than plant food. Consuming more calories spurred our brain development. Later on, around 1.5 million years ago, our ancestors discovered fire and thereby started cooking meat. This helped in digesting meat better and it released even more nutrition. As a result our brain size exploded and enabled us to conquer the planet. It’s this history that made us omnivores (eating both planst & animals). As we became omnivorous over the course of millions of years, we also became reliant on meat-protein and the essential amino acids it supplies. We also developed unique ways to digest and extract nutrition from meat. Any attempt by vegans to totally avoid meat consumption is unnatural and therefore is beset with problems, especially if there are young children in a vegan family. It’s just not the way we evolved into humans from apes.

          • I disagree with you.god created everything.research the bible and try to disprove it!

          • Brilliant, thank you! I have tried to debate with vegans about this, but they tend to be so cultish, it’s hard. May I ask if you have good peer-reviewed info sources I can cite? I’d love to back my arguments up with good science.

          • Hmm…, could be that somebody’s god was leading the apes out of the trees.

        • I am a physician and has masters degree in Botany and Biochemistry. Premitive Humans may have used the food sources around their environment . However, human digestive system is ment to digest plant based foods. Most of our morbidity stems mainly from eating flush. Flush is being degraded with in few minutes after the death of the animal. There is continuous cleaning and detoxification process goes on while the animal is living, including human animal. Toxins build up when the cleaning organs such as lungs, kidneys, lever, skin and enteric systems stop working the moment the animal dies. Bacteria take hold and start putrification process. Toxins have no way of escaping the tissues. Hours and days go by the time the flush is injested along with the tixins in it. Humans have the unique ability to cultivate plants to produce the high quality foods that will protect the body the way they are intended to do. Stop killing other animals and stop killing yourselves. I am saddened to see all these people who come to see me in my clinic with so many diseases and suffer so much. A few who change the diet as I suggest would come back with more vitality and thank me for giving them the information that changed their helath. Please get out of this dark cloud of premitive thinking that we are to eat other animals.
          I am your well wisher. I do not gain any thing but I give this information out of compation to all humans and animals. I hope that it would atleast benefit some. Love and Peace with you.

      • Dear Katharine,
        I can not reach the article by link you provided. Can you publish working link?

    • what matters here is not wither plant protein is complete or not. Although plants have almost all protein needed for human body, some plants lack amino acid which is needed to digest protein. but if (some body) is a vegan and wants to obtain all the protein his body needs from plants only, then the only way to achieve that is by mixing many types of plants, by doing so, the body will have enough aminoacid from some plants to digest proteins that can not be digested from other plants.
      Another thing, some plants are high sources of cholestrole. such as, i suppose, sunflower seeds, nuts, and soybeans.
      excuse my week english.

      • Have a little common sense. How are all animals getting proteins? Do there body is making proteins, No. All proteins on this earth is generated by plants. Plants are primary source of proteins.
        Who says, humans are omnivorous? We don’t have 4 stomachs and so we need animal meat? Seriously?
        Indians are vegetarian since 1000’s of years.

  2. Now, the difference between plant protein and animal proteins are as follows. 1. Plant proteins have less cholesterol and fat compared to animal protein. 2. Plant proteins have more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants compared to animal proteins. 3. Plant proteins are the incomplete protein whereas animal proteins are said to be complete proteins

  3. sorry Katherine your research is wrong plant proteins with the exception of soy are incomplete proteins and are poor proteins due to the fact that plant proteins are wrapped in cellulose which the human body can’t digest. and the other problem with soy is it s a know goitrogen and if eaten in large quantities like as a protein source can actually slow down or even stop the thyroid from functioning. and the fact they have no cholesterol well thats a warning for a start the human body and brain requires fats and cholesterol in order to function properly. in fact a study of over 5000 people showed the mortality rate to be higher in people with low cholesterol. in fact a humans sex hormones are built from cholesterol. and you raw veg eating people sorry to break this to you the human body does not process raw veg very well there is a reason we learnt to cook our food. in fact many raw vegetables are also known goitrogens and require cooking to make the goitrogenic properties of them inactive. that and the fact that raw fruit and veg is the number one cause of botchalism. the fact is a diet of just plants is not very nutritious that is why herbivorous animals have to spend their whole day eating just to get enough nutrients from their diet

    • Steve, where you and the others got this information, that protein in cooked plants (forget about grass) is wrapped in cellulose and is undigested? I searched on the net and there is no scientific proof of it. Then, you are wrong about botulism. Read this article http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Botchalism
      To judge about amino-acid composition of a particular food I advise you to use web site http://nutritiondata.self.com/ Learn, how to use it and end this debate.

      • Dmirty, Steve is absolutely correct. There is plenty of research supporting that plant based proteins are bound to cellulose, which works like fiber in the human digestive tract. I’ve often heard vegens use the analogy that “if gorillas only eat vegetables and are muscular, then so should humans”. What you have to understand is that herbivores have longer digestive tracts, but also have a symbiotic relationship with a stomach bacteria, which secretes an enzyme to enable herbivores to breakdown the cellulose and absorb plant-based proteins. Unfortunately humans do not possess this bacteria therefore we are unable to absorb plant-based proteins. Additionally any studies which suggest that vegetarian or vegan people weigh less and are healthier is also flawed. Vegetarian or vegan’s tend to weigh less however what is not pointed out in the vast majority of studies is that their body fat percentages are also relatively high when compared to their lean body mass.

        • Dear JD,
          Could you give me few links to those “plenty studies” about poor digestibility of cellulose wrapped plant protein in human digestive tract from cooked food? I cannot find even one! Otherwise it is a pointless discussion.

        • You can ask question “What is percent digestibility of plant protein?” here http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_percent_digestibility_of_plant_protein
          The answer is 70-90%
          In relation of most animal proteins it is 90-99%. So the plant protein is less digestible, but this difference is not catastrophic. Some protein from plant and animal sources have same digestibility – 90%. So, why you making big problem from nothing? You write about the cellulose as it is on the way of digestion, but it is not meant to be digested, only bulk the feces, provide environment for friendly bacteria, and brush the intestine. Do not panic, vegetarians and vegans, you are save enough if you eat wise. And what to eat is personal choice, based on personal experience and knowledge that is always limited. People, study yourself and live in peace.

  4. My brother recommended I may like this website. He used to be totally right. This post truly made my day. You can not consider simply how so much time I had spent for this info! Thanks! efadkgddcbee

  5. Eggs and fruit works for me. The great thing about eggs is they don’t raise blood cholesterol. That myth has been around for as long as statin drugs and, every study has debunked it. Bottom line is find what works for you and enjoy it. Nobody gets out of here alive so laugh often and stop trying to play dictator. The blood pressure you lower could be your own.

  6. If humans are not supposed to be omnivorous and all protein comes from plants then why do humans have herbivore and carnivore teeth you don’t need canines to rip through a plant

    • Dear Scott, there can be one type of answer, if you belive in evolutionary theory of Darvin or another, complicated answer, if you belive in creation of human race by higher will. Wich one do you want to hear?

  7. Further studies have shown that eating more processed red meat may actually increase the risk of dying from heart disease. Processed meats include smoked meat, sausage, hot dogs, salami, bacon, and canned meat. Cramer:  Certain plants can be excellent sources of protein, often with fewer calories and fewer potentially harmful effects than animal products.

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References :

[0]The Difference Between Animal Protein and Plant Protein. (n.d.). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/difference-between-animal-protein-plant-protein#:~:text=Animal%20proteins%20are%20complete%20proteins

[1]‌Prakash, D., Gurtoo, A., & Madhivadhani, A. (2022). Comparative Study of Plant and Animal Sources of Protein. https://csp.iisc.ac.in/wp/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Comparative-Study-of-Plant-and-Animal-Sources-of-Protein.pdf

[2]Day, L., Cakebread, J. A., & Loveday, S. M. (2022). Food proteins from animals and plants: Differences in the nutritional and functional properties. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 119, 428–442. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2021.12.020

[3]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADTr19kMwA-foods-high-in-animal-protein/

[4]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MAD5OgUY6xk-diet-of-plant-based-protein-/

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