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How to optimise your plant-based OR animal protein diet

How to optimise your plant-based OR animal protein diet

It is a debate as old as time of which is better for your health: Plant-based or meat-based meals? Mopani Pharmacy did some research on the matter. We are going to discuss, bust a few myths and share some facts. Most importantly, we can advise on how you can optimise your diet, whichever one you pick!

To remember: Animal based refers to meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. Whey protein specifically – refers to dairy based proteins, and falls under animal by-products. Although vegetarians may not eat meat, they might still make use of eggs or diary. Vegan diets consist of zero animal products and only plant based.

The actual protein in plant-based vs animal protein

Protein is made up from different essential amino acids, which our bodies use to rebuild our own protein (muscles, flesh, etc.)

Proteins are made up of amino acids. A person’s body needs a balance of all 22 types of amino acids to function correctly. The body cannot produce nine of these acids, called essential amino acids.

A complete protein source refers to a type of food that contains all the essential amino acids.

  • Animal proteins are considered complete, as they have a balance all the essential amino acids we need.
  • Most Plants are incomplete, this means they are missing at least one of the essential amino acids

Read more: Benefits of protein while you are exercising

Plants lack the following nutrition, additionally:


  • Vitamin B12; mainly found in fish, meat, poultry and dairy products.
  • Vitamin D; found in oily fish, eggs and dairy. Your body may also produce it’s own vitamin D if you spend some time in the sun – Read this article if you want to know more: Sunlight – Good or bad? Here is the answer to a burning issue.
  • Essential omega-3 fat found in fatty fish
  • Heme-iron is predominantly found in meat, especially red meat. It is much better absorbed in the body than non-heme iron from plant foods.
  • Zinc is found in beef, pork and lamb. It is also more easily absorbed and used from animal protein sources.

Animal products lack the following nutrition:


  • Vitamin C, which is essential for the maintenance of your immune system and connective tissue
  • Flavonoids, the most common group of antioxidants in plants. They are found in virtually all plant foods.
  • Dietary fibre and starch, needed for digestive health.
  • Animal products contain saturated fat, which can increase risk for heart diseases.

Luckily, we can make this a non-issue!

Ask our friendly Mopani staff to recommend the protein-shakes and other supplements you might need, depending on your diet, age and activity level.

Protein shakes – How they ‘whey’ up


Protein powders come in two standard varieties, namely whey (dairy) and plant-based. There are important factors to take note of when choosing between the two options.

Dairy is made of casein and whey. Whey is separated from the casein and dried into a powder. This powder has two main forms, namely concentrate and isolate. Whey concentrate has more biologically active compounds, which makes it ideal for athletes. Whey isolate is considered the purest form with the most protein, and seen as safe for those with lactose intolerance. This is because it only contains trace amounts of lactose sugar. Whey contains all the essential amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own, and metabolises rapidly. This is why whey is promoted for energy, stamina muscle growth and repair.

Vegans or those who want a plant-based option can opt for the plant-based powders. The most common plant-based powders are made of brown rice, soy, hemp and peas. It is recommended that those who opt for plant-based proteins consume a variety of complementary proteins throughout the day to ensure that they cover all bases of amino acids that may be lacking. Soy is considered a complete protein, but does not always contain enough.

Both whey and plant-based proteins can increase muscle growth and optimise resistance training, with research not showing any difference between the two.

When choosing your protein powder, it comes down to personal preference. In terms of nutritional health, opt for the powders that have the least amount of added sugars.

Check out our collection of protein powder options here!

The myth


It is said that meat-eaters are unhealthy, compared to those with vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. This is true for the most part, however, meat is not the only reason for this. It is known that most vegetarians and vegans are more health conscious, and therefore choose healthier foods, exercise more and be less inclined to use alcohol, less inclined to smoke and consumes more fruit and vegetables etc.

Where meat is at fault, is purely on an indulgence level, with the choice of meat, rather than meat in general.

You should also consider that, if it is about weight loss, you will only lose weight if you burn more energy than what you consume. Whether it is plant-based, dairy or meat protein, will make no difference.

If you are considering a keto, banting, intermittent fasting or vegan diet, read this article first: Trending eating plans explained – Keto, Banting, Intermittent Fasting and Vegan diets

The healthy meat – Unprocessed


  • Red meat is packed with protein, iron and Vitamin B12. Research has shown that there is no link between unprocessed red meat and heart disease. Try to keep it as clean and lean as possible.
  • Fish is considered one of the healthiest meats. Those who eat oily regularly will have a boost in omega 3, as well as a lower risk of heart disease. Other fish options is a good lean low fat protein source Fish is one of the foods that will actively defend your heart health and improve it.
  • Poultry is considered a clean, lean meat, which is also healthy for the heart – If you remove all the visible fats!

Here is the kicker though; if you plan on eating meat, switch it up. The healthiest combination is that which contains a variety. It does not mean that every meal should contain all three types, but rather ensure that you eat a variety.

The unhealthy meat – Processed

Processed meat is meat that is preserved by curing, salting, smoking, drying or canning. It has been linked to heart disease and some cancers.

Processed meat includes:

  • Sausages, hot dogs, salami
  • Ham, cured bacon
  • Salted and cured meat, corned beef
  • Smoked meat
  • Dried meat, biltong
  • Canned meat

On the other hand, meat that has been frozen or undergone mechanical processing like cutting and slicing is still considered unprocessed.

To remember

What you want to eat, and the reasons for choosing the lifestyle are all up to you. You don’t have to feel like you have to live one way or the other to be healthy.

Just make sure that you include variety food products from all the main food groups.  Choose lean, high fibre and fresh products.  Plan your meals and snacks to ensure you meet your daily nutritional requirements.

If you are worried about missing some nutrients, ask our friendly staff at Mopani to recommend a supplement or protein shake that will suit your lifestyle. If you feel unhealthy, unwell, or fatigued, visit a dietitian or doctor, and show them your meal plan. Keep a food diary. If you have any allergies or sensitivities, this will help you figure out what you should maybe avoid or eat more of.