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Explain Like I’m 5: Why is Plant Protein Better Than Animal Protein?


You know what we like? Concise, accurate information about nutrition. True, the topic is fascinating, and important enough that we could pour over each and every bit of literature written about macro and micro nutrients like an English major pours over Austin, Dickens and Yeats, but sometimes we want the bullet points. Let’s face it, some people read the novel and some people read the Cliffs Notes.

This information isn’t a one size fits all, for example pregnant women, people with certain medical conditions and athletes have different nutritional needs than the general population. For everybody else though, here are the absolute basics of why you don’t need animal protein to meet your needs.


1. Humans need .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

This is not difficult to do, as the average American consumes anywhere between 70 to 120 grams per person. To put this into perspective, 70 grams of protein would be the appropriate amount for a 200 pound person, while 120 grams would be appropriate for someone weighing 330 pounds. The average American man and woman weigh 196 pounds and 156 pounds, respectively. Basically, everyone is getting more than enough.

ELI 5: Why is Plant Protein Better Than Animal Protein?Clean Eating Veggie Girl

2. Protein deficiency in America is, basically, unheard of.

Malnutrition as a result of inadequate protein happens, almost without exception, in developing countries alone. With approximately 16 million (or 5 percent) of the U.S. population known to be vegetarian, and half of those eating entirely plant-based, protein needs are obviously being met just fine.

ELI 5: Why is Plant Protein Better Than Animal Protein?Someecards

3. Pretty much all plant foods have protein. 

Here’s the facts. We need to eat foods that supply us with the nine essential amino acids that our bodies can’t make on their own. Some plant-based foods have all of them (quinoa, buckwheat, soy, chia and hempseed) while others have a mix of some and not others. As long as foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are consumed daily, you’re getting everything you need and more.

ELI 5: Why is Plant Protein Better Than Animal Protein?Someecards

4. Animal protein comes with fancy “gifts with purchase” like saturated fat, cholesterol, added hormones and antibiotics.

Diets that rely heavily on animal protein are typically also much higher in compounds that contribute to cardiovascular disease, such as saturated fat and cholesterol. Even lean sources are still filled with additional hormones and antibiotics, as well as bacteria, parasites and carcinogens.

ELI 5: Why is Plant Protein Better Than Animal Protein?Someecards

5. Plant proteins offer a “Buy one, get these free” special with antioxidants, fiber, minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals.

Using quinoa as an example, 100 grams provides 14 grams of protein along with 25 percent of the RDA for both iron and vitamin B6 and almost 50 percent of the RDA for magnesium. It also packs 563 mg of potassium. The same measure of beef comes in at 26 grams of protein, and only 14 percent iron, 20 percent B6, a paltry 5 percent magnesium and 318 mg of potassium. It’s also double the fat at 15 grams with 90 mg of cholesterol, while quinoa has just 6 grams of fat and zero cholesterol.

ELI 5: Why is Plant Protein Better Than Animal Protein?Someecards

Curious about how to get protein on a plant-based diet? Check out these handy resources:

If you like articles like this and want more, we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!


Lead Image Credit: Someecards

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439 comments on “Explain Like I’m 5: Why is Plant Protein Better Than Animal Protein?”

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4 Months Ago

Hey, just wanted to add my $0.02, I know this article is a little old by now, but hopefully the author is still listening. In my view, it is important to eat both types of food, and this is why. Pound for pound, meat, specifically beef, is uniquely nutrient dense. By this I mean that there is no plant matter, ounce for ounce, that can deliver the same amount of nutrients as in, let\'s say, 3 oz. of beef which gives you about half your daily recommended value of protein, as well as 10 essential nutrients including Vitamin B12 which is somewhat more difficult to get enough of with a purely vegan diet. Meat and vegetables are the cornerstone of any healthy diet, in my view.

It is absolutely important to take care, of course. Just as with the cooking method being relevant to how much nutrients are left in vegetables after cooking, the cooking process for meat will affect the healthfulness of the end product. Meat that is processed or covered in char is, obviously, not very good for you. But a hearty beef stew with carrots, onions, and celery is about as healthy as you can get, in my view.

Thanks for writing!

7 Months Ago

The meat causes cancer argument has been debunked including red meat. The earlier studies never differentiated processed from unprocessed meats. Don\'t take my word for it. Research it. Not trying to switch anyone from vegan to carnivore, just hate seeing half truths.

Also saturated fat is proven to be heart health neutral with some healthy saturated fats out there actually ( Saturated fatty acids, especially the kinds found in butter help white blood cells to recognize and destroy invading viruses and bacteria. Go get ‘em, boys!). There is even good transfats (CLA anyone and yes it is a trans fatty acid not a polyunsaturated acid).

Veganism, vegetarianism, and omnivore (ism?) is a personal choice and no one should bash anyone for their choice but they should be able to make those choices using accurate not manipulated information to meet a specific favorable outcome for one person\'s side of the debate.

Don\'t forget about things like heme-iron which is a way easier digestible form of iron, B12 which is found in no inland vegan source without processing the food to include it. Speaking of anti-oxidants egg yolks are loaded. Before worrying about the cholesterol please know over 90% of blood cholesterol is made by the body. Dietary cholesterol plays a very insignificant role in blood cholesterol and lipoprotein formations.

Lastly worried about those LDL levels? Well there is good "bad" cholesterol (which actually isn\'t cholesterol at all!) too!

Get all the info before locking in to a hardcore belief as to right and wrong. Do what you believe from your own research makes the most sense to you.

10 Months Ago

I found the article interesting and informative. Can I use this article in a magazine for free distribution to vegetarians.

Vegan Cuck
19 Apr 2018

Print it out and distribute it, you cheap fart.

10 Months Ago

Don\'t get me wrong - I am in agreement that building muscle on a vegan diet is possible - and that it is possible to get "enough" protein on a vegan diet (I put enough in quotations because it changes based on whether someone is an "average" sedentary person or a bodybuilder/athlete etc) - however - the article claims that plant protein is "better" than animal protein....which as far as I am aware is simply not the case.

points 1 and 2 make nov case at all about "better" or not.

point 3 simply states that plants have protein...true...and so do animal products, in far greater quantities, as complete proteins with no missing amino acids and at a higher digestibility and absorbability as well than plant proteins - to my knowledge no plant protein is as well absorbed as almost any animal protein.

point 4 - just as with plant foods - organic is better - automatically avoiding all the nasty hormones etc - saturated fats have been vindicated god knows how many times in the last years and actually most of the newer studies have shown again and again that grasses, pulses and grains are just as detrimental to health if not more so - quite apart from the fact that the body REQUIRES cholesterol in hormonal synthesis and that if we take too much in it also decreases the amount it make internally.

point 5 - beef also comes long with omega 3s EPA and DHA (if organic which is what I eat and suggest people eat) which are next to impossible to find in the plant world, not to mention vitamin a (retinol is also only possible to find in the plant kingdom via conversion from beta-carotene which is done slowly and badly), vitamin e and b12 - not to mention (although yes, less than) a form of iron which is considerably more absorbable than that found in plants.

As already stated - no disagreements with a vegetarian diet being ok and doable for many people - as well as healthier in various respects - but as per the protein being "better" - simply not the case.

27 Nov 2017

plus - the "ask a gorilla about protein" banner....please not that one again.....we are not gorillas!!!!...we do not have a digestive system capable of converting undigestible fibre into free fatty acids!!!!!....vegans need to stop comparing humans to gorillas/elephants/rhinos/insert any large herbivore here!

Dale Jackson
12 Dec 2017

Yes everyone who eats a traditional meat based diet gets enough protein, but that is not true for all vegans. They have to work harder to get enough protein. You say that a person who weighs 200 should have 70 g. of protein per day. OK let\'s break that down. Say they have oatmeal and toast for breakfast. That is only about 8 g. of protein. For lunch they have a cup of beans and a cup of spinach. That is about 20 grams at the most. For dinner they have a stir fry with tofu and veggies plus rice-- about 18 g. of protein. Throw in a quarter cup of nuts for a snack (4 g.). All that comes to only 50 grams. Of course you could always add vegetable protein supplement like vegan bodybuilders do, but how natural is that? The fact is vegans have to work hard to get enough protein from veggies because vegetable protein is usually only half as much as the same amount of meat protein and sometimes less than that. People who want to lose weight find it difficult to get enough protein on a vegan diet without overeating. Sure you can stuff your pie hole until you get enough protein, but you can\'t do that and lose weight at the same time. Vegans talk all the time about the "myth" that you can\'t get enough protein on a vegan diet. They show photos of vegan bodybuilders and athletes (most of whom take supplements), but the real myth is that it\'s easy to get enough protein on a vegan diet. It\'s not easy for everyone.

new vegan
10 Months Ago

This is great!!! and I love the memes hahaha story of my life ! loving the plant based life

1 Years Ago

it was a decent read until #4 where an outdated by 40 years claim was made about saturated fats in connection with cardiovascular disease. update your knowledge please.

12 Jun 2017


I think you need to update yours if you don\'t want to end up like Atkins...or the Eskimos.


Take care,

Mfon Amana
22 Feb 2018

The Eskimos had a far lower cholesterol number, please Gio, don\'t want to ramble too much but check your sources. Plant foods have pesticides, fungicides and insecticides. How is that better than antibiotic fed meat?

1 Years Ago

for all those claiming that meat is necessary for our diet, the bulk of animal products come from beasts that eat plants, not meat. cows and chickens are not meat eaters, neither is deer and lamb. so if all this amazing benefit comes from animals that eat plants, it makes sense to remove the middle man and just eat plants. wheat grass juice is fantastic, kale has amazing amounts of nutrients and so do kiwi plants.....

13 Jul 2017

Hi Charlie, I agree with most of your comment, excepting chickens being herbivores. They\'re actually scavengers and eat insects, worms, and grubs. :)

Mance Lotter
1 Years Ago

Paleo diet of mostly animal protein, healthy fats, lots of veggies, some fruit and my doctor is blown away at how healthy my heart is. My cholesterol is what she would expect from a vegan long-distance runner...and I do ZERO cardio...ZERO. Sorry, but for me to get the protein I need to build lean muscle, plant protein would be a disaster. I\'d have to eat mounds of food, supplement with BCAAs and consume tons of powder. Chicken, fish, eggs (with the yolks...always with the yolks), and some red meat and I\'m healthy and strong.

Just eat high-quality, grass-fed, free range meats and you don\'t have to eat tons of legumes with their lectin, phytate and fat content (blocking much of the nutrients in the legume anyway!)

If you need to increase protein intake, go the high-quality animal route, but eliminate foods that cause inflammation and you\'ll be just fine!

03 Mar 2017

These 5 athletes, including Germany\'s Strongest Man, beg to differ. You do not need meat for your protein. You are healthy now, but the continued consumption of high amounts of animal protein make you more susceptible to serious health conditions as you age.


15 Mar 2017

There\'s been tons of athletes who have been on vegan diets. They always go back to eating meat from what I\'ve seen.

12 Jun 2017


Can you please provide evidence of "tons of athletes gone on a vegan diet and back to eating meat". Thank You.

Meanwhile, I show you some counter-evidence:


Take care,

13 Jul 2017

I did quite well on a paleo diet for 5 years, until... I didn\'t. My inflammation/arthritis is out of control thanks to a couple of viral GI bouts. Can\'t stomach most animal protein any more. Never thought it would happen to me, but it did. Just never say never to a plant-based diet. Check out Dr. Mark Hyman\'s pegan diet, it\'s the best of both worlds.

Danusia Skyj
2 Years Ago

Hahaha love this Ibis Sara

Danusia Skyj
2 Years Ago

Hahaha love this Ibis Sara


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