One of my buddies always say “learn something everyday”. So, like the title suggests, let us look at the difference between animal protein vs plant protein, as well as what is this soy isoflavones thingy today.

Yep, today’s post is educational.

fish stall at wet market

Before we get to animal vs plant protein, lets look at the two different classification of protein:

  • Complete Protein – a complete source of protein is a food that contains all the essential amino acids. In general, animal proteins are considered good sources of complete protein
  • Incomplete Protein – these are protein sources that contain some, but not all of the essential amino acids. In general, vegetables, legumes, and grains are incomplete proteins.

Now the animal versus plant protein:

  • Animal Protein – generally associated with high fat content. There is increasing evidence that a diet mainly based on animal proteins is associated with various diseases. High intake of animal proteins increases total blood cholesterol, LDL, and the chances of obesity, risk of atherosclerosis as well as coronary heart diseases.
  • Plant Protein: vegetable protein sources are also good sources of dietary fibre, and generally low in fat content and saturated fats. Studies show that vegetable proteins are associated with low blood cholesterol and lower associated diseases.

Excess Protein

So, what happens to excess protein that we consume?

The short answer is that it’s taken care by our kidneys. The excess protein is converted to urea and glucose, urea is then excreted through urine, while glucose that is not used by body may be converted to body fat.

Excess protein is usually okay for most, but those with liver or kidney problems might want to consult physicians before using protein supplements.

On the flip side, having not enough protein (protein deficiency, or kwashiokor) can lead to retarded growth, loss of hair and skin color, poor digestibility, diminishing blood protein, liver damage and so on, especially in children.

soy protein

Best of both worlds

If you recall advantage and disadvantages of complete vs incomplete protein and animal vs vegetable protein above, it begs the question if we can have the best of both worlds. The answer is yes – soy protein.

Soy protein is a complete vegetarain protein with all the essential amino acids for adults and children. Soybean oil is largely unsaturated and high in essential fatty acids.

It is also an excellent alternative for those who are allergic to milk (like me….), nutritious and rich is not only protein but also B vitamins and isoflavones. The only plant-based protein with protein quality equal to that of meat, milk, and egg.


Soy Isoflavones

One unique compound found in soybeans is isoflavones which are phytoestrogens – plant substances similar to female hormone, oestrogen. There are three types of isoflavones and soy protein isolate is a good source of isoflavones. One cup of soymilk has about 20 miligrams.

Research indicates that isoflavones are responsible for soy’s health benefits, and among the bioactive compounds that work with soy protein to lower blood cholesterol.

Here’s the daily amount of soy and isoflavones studied or being studied to prevent a range of diseases:

  • Lowering cholesterol – 25-50g of soy protein
  • Cancer (breast, prostate, colon) prevention – 20-40 g of soy protein
  • Hot flush reduction – 45 g of soy flour/day, 80-160 mg of isoflavones
  • Osteoporosis, post-menopausal women – 40g of soy protien containing 90mg total isoflavones per day for 6 months

(source: University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign)

So there you go, learn something new everyday. I also previously wrote an entry on how to enjoy Nutrilite protein powder, which is a good supplemental source of soy protein.

Animal Protein, Plant Protein, and Soy Isoflavones
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