Just to put it out there, I am a vegetarian, so I apologize if this seems biased. I will try to keep this as unbiased as possible though and keep my opinion out of this as much as possible.
Chances are, throughout your life, you’ve been told you need to make sure you get enough protein in your diet. “It’ll help you be big and strong” your parents may have said. And it is incredibly important, you need protein for muscles to function, your skin to stay healthy, enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters all of which are essential for your cells to carry out normal functions. But the thing is, you really don’t need all that much.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or .36 grams per pound (so I weight 130lbs, which equates to about 47 grams of protein, multiply by 4 calories per gram makes 188 calories from protein per day). And while that can seem like a big number, it’s really next to nothing. This can vary of course depending on how active you’re are, or if you’re training to be a bodybuilder. If you’re breaking down the proteins in your muscles through training faster than you’re consuming them, then you may require a higher ratio of protein, up to 1.1 grams per pound of body weight.
If you’ve ever talked to someone who is training for muscles, they may tell you that animal protein is the ONLY way to go, because it’s the “cleanest” or “most pure” protein you can get. You can get all of the essential amino acids you need from plant foods, but it’s a bit harder to do so. A cup of chicken has 43 grams of protein, and a cup of tempeh has only 30. And while the tempeh does have all of the essential amino acids, the chicken has higher levels of them all.
So while meat may seem the obvious winner, there is a catch. Current evidence shows that plant based diets can reduce the risk of all cancers, cardiovascular disease, and increase lifespan. This is thought to be because plant based diets are lower in saturated fat, total calories, and cholesterol while being higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals. On the flip side though, they can also be high in processed foods due to lack of knowledge of what to eat.
For now, it can be concluded that both plant based diets and omnivorous diets have their unique perks, it just depends on what you’re trying to achieve. And as always, strive for variety and don’t eat too much of one thing. I could talk about this stuff for pages, so expect more debating in the future.