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Which is better? Animal or plant-based protein?

 Which is better? Animal or plant-based protein? (Photo: iStock)

Research indicates that a significant number of Kenyans eat a lot of meat, especially beef, which about 80 per cent of the population prefers. But which of the two proteins is nutritionally superior and is animal protein that bad for you? 

According to the British Nutrition Foundation, proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids.

Our bodies use them to repair muscles and bones and support growth, tissue repair, create hormones and enzymes, provide energy and improve overall health.

Animal protein, which is found in foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, is packed with essential amino acids.

“Animal proteins are good sources of Vitamin B-12 which influences metabolism rate,” Dr Kepha Nyanumba, a Consultant Nutritionist at the Crystal Health Medical Centre (CHM) explains.

He adds that animal protein has high bioavailability, meaning the body can easily absorb and use it, ensuring effective nutrient delivery.

In recent years, plant protein has become increasingly recognised for its nutritional value. Legumes, nuts, seeds, tempeh, tofu, and whole grains are some examples of plant-based protein sources rich in essential nutrients, vitamins, fibre, and minerals.

“Unlike animal proteins, plant proteins are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making them a heart-healthy option,” Dr Nyanumba says.

According to Dr Nyanumba, both animal and plant proteins present considerations and controversies, despite their respective benefits.

Animal protein, particularly in red and processed meats, has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer and other health concerns.

Conversely, plant proteins may pose challenges in terms of amino acid completeness and bioavailability. Some plant foods contain anti-nutrients that can hinder mineral absorption, while others may trigger allergic reactions or digestive discomfort in susceptible individuals.

“The key to achieving top-notch nutrition and overall health is adopting a balanced approach that embraces a mix of animal and plant protein sources,” Dr Nyanumba says.

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