The Protein Predicament: Animal, Plant, or Both?

The Protein Predicament: Animal, Plant, or Both?

By Dr. David B. Clark DABCI, NMD, DC  

The importance of protein in our diet is a well-accepted fact. It’s crucial for growth, cellular repair, and immune function. However, as much as health experts agree on the necessity of protein, the ‘how much’ and ‘what kind’ of protein are points of disagreement. Should we get our protein solely from plants, animals, or a combination of both? How much protein is ideal?

At Health+Plus Clinic, we aim to provide a balanced perspective on this contentious issue to help you make informed dietary choices. Let’s take a look at it more closely.

steak food
Photo by Malidate Van on

Understanding Protein

Protein is a macronutrient made up of smaller units known as amino acids. These amino acids are categorized as essential (cannot be synthesized by the body) and non-essential (can be synthesized by the body). The primary point of divergence between animal and plant proteins lies in their amino acid profiles and other associated nutrients.

Animal Protein

Animal-source proteins, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy foods, are often referred to as complete proteins. This means they contain all essential amino acids in sufficient quantities. Moreover, they are rich in essential nutrients like vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Plant Protein

Plant proteins, derived from legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds, are generally not considered complete proteins because they lack one or more essential amino acids. However, by combining different sources of plant protein, you can still obtain a complete amino acid profile. Additionally, plant proteins are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and are generally lower in saturated fats.


It’s true that plant proteins typically require more effort to be completely digested compared to animal proteins. This is due to the presence of certain anti-nutrients like phytates and oxalates that can inhibit absorption. However, cooking, fermenting, or sprouting plant foods can significantly improve nutrient availability.

Nutritional Requirements

The average adult should consume between 3 to 4 ounces (approximately 80 to 110 grams) of protein daily. For pregnant or nursing women and individuals over 65, the higher end of this scale is recommended. Around one-third of your daily caloric intake should ideally come from protein sources, whether animal-based, plant-based, or a mix of both.

Ethical and Environmental Considerations

Beyond the nutritional aspects, many people consider the ethical and environmental implications of their protein choices. Animal farming often has a more significant environmental impact in terms of land use, water consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, a diet overly reliant on monocrops like soy can also pose sustainability challenges.

Whether animal or plant protein is better for you can depend on numerous factors such as lifestyle, pre-existing health conditions, ethical beliefs, and nutritional needs. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

At Health+Plus Clinic, we recommend a balanced approach to diet and nutrition, focusing on whole, unprocessed foods. If you have specific dietary concerns or health conditions, consulting with a healthcare provider for personalized guidance is always the best course of action.

Contact us today at 816-625-4497 or visit our contact page to schedule a consultation and learn more. Wherever you are in the Kansas City area—Oak Grove, Independence, Grain Valley—we’re just a short drive away!