Should you choose between plant or animal protein?

Proteins are the building blocks of your body… literally.

And when you eat a protein-packed diet, you’re giving your body the tools it needs to do build muscle, replenish body tissue, and produce important hormones, enzymes and much, much more.

But what kind of protein is best for your body?

On one side you have your paleo and low-carb enthusiasts who really believe animal-based proteins are the only way to go…

Grass-fed beef and organ meats are superfoods to them.

And then there are the plant-based protein promoters who say animal protein is bad… and not only for ethical reasons: it harms your health too.

You may fall somewhere in the middle wondering which proteins are really doing your body the most good.

Well, chalk one up for the plant-based diet promoters because the latest study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that eating more plant-based protein increases your lifespan… or does it?

Researchers analyzed close to 30 years of data from two large health studies and found that people who got their protein from a lot of meat, eggs or dairy were more likely to die prematurely than those got their protein from breads, cereals, pasta, beans, nuts and legumes.

But before you toss that T-bone, there are a couple of caveats here…

When researchers dug a little further, they found that the increased risk of premature death wasn’t associated with all types of meat…

It primarily applied to red meats like beef and pork. Protein from chicken and fish didn’t seem to have the same deadly consequences.

Then researchers realized that the increased risk of death from red meat only applied when accompanied by another very unhealthy lifestyle factor… like smoking… drinking… or being physically inactive.

And one other thing to consider… researchers don’t specify the quality of the meat people are eating in these studies.

Sure, 99 percent of the red meat you buy at the grocery store and eat in restaurants is factory-farmed meat that’s going to raise inflammation levels and shorten your lifespan. But if you go out of your way to eat organic, grass-fed beef, that’s unlikely to have the same impact on your health.

So the take away here is that perhaps the best protein is a healthy balance of both… quality meat proteins and plant proteins — a win for the common man and common sense, right?

Unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan, your best bet is to get protein from a variety of high-quality sources, preferably steering clear of GMOs. And if you’re a meat-eater — broaden your horizons a little…

There are a lot of wonderful, healthy sources of plant protein that you’re likely to miss out on if you only look to animals for this essential nutrient. Some of the healthiest plant-based proteins are:

  • Quinoa
  • Spirulina
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Legumes
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Nuts

The most important thing may be to just remember to get enough— at least 46 grams of protein per day for women and 56 grams per day for men. And enjoy what’s on your plate.

Editor’s note: Eating right and being healthy shouldn’t be rocket science. That’s why Dr. Michael Cutler put together his common sense guide, The Part-Time Health Nut: Attain your best health ever—without extreme diets, dangerous pills or brutal workouts. It puts an end to crazy diet fads and puts real health back into perspective. Click here to get your copy today — plus 4 FREE reports…

Sources:
  1. “Protein.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  2. Song, T.T. Fung, F.B. Hu, W.C. Willett, “Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality.” JAMA Internal Medicine. Published online August 01, 2016.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.