What is the Best Source of Protein?
Protein is the most important macronutrient. The word protein comes from the Greek word for “primary”. Humans simply cannot live without the nine essential amino acids that come from protein. Protein is needed for immune function, muscle building, tissue repair, to build new cells, and to make hormones. Without protein we would quickly become malnourished and ill.
If you want to get more healthy sources of protein into your diet, it is important to understand how to determine the best sources of protein so you can optimize your intake.
The Best Sources of Protein
The quality of dietary proteins is a vital factor in determining what proteins are the most valuable in terms of how the body assimilates and utilizes the protein to meet its daily nutrition needs.
The first thing to understand is the difference between complete protein sources and incomplete protein sources. A protein that is “complete” has all nine essential amino acids. Most animal sources of protein, such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and diary, are complete protein sources. Most non-meat sources of protein are incomplete, with soy as the only exception.
The best sources of protein, where you will get the most complete nutrition for your calories, are animal based proteins. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t get protein from plant sources as well. Plant-based proteins are usually high in fiber and phytonutrients.
Plant-based proteins can be combined to make a complete protein. For example, beans are low in methionine, but high in lysine. Whereas rice or other grains are high in methionine, but low in lysine. When rice and beans are eaten together, they form a complete protein. It was previously believed that these foods needed to be eaten in the same meal for the body to benefit, but that has turned out to not be the case. As long as you eat a variety of plant-based protein sources, you should be able to meet your amino acid needs.
Measuring Protein Quality
Protein can also be measured by how effectively it is used by the body. Measuring changes in the amino acid content after eating protein is a well-accepted way to determine protein quality, measured as Biological Value (BV). This involves the measurement of nitrogen intake from the protein and the output of nitrogen in the feces and urine. BV is therefore a measurement of the nitrogen absorbed and utilized by the body and is another way of determining the best sources of protein. Below is a list of the BV of specific proteins. The higher the number means the protein will be used more effectively.
Biologic Value (BV) of Dietary Proteins(1)
It’s no surprise, as this table shows, the animal proteins are high in BV. They are complete proteins and the body readily absorbs and utilizes them. While vegetable proteins are much more incomplete and retain a lower BV rating, due as well to their lower digestibility. In order to achieve the same amino acid concentration in the body with plant proteins alone this can requires a great deal more total protein.
Whey protein, one of the two proteins found in milk, is a complete protein with the highest biological value. The benefits (as shown above) of using a whey protein powder to supplement your diet are great according to the BV of this protein source. It fulfills the body’s amino acid intake beyond any other source of protein, as well as being a very versatile food. Our Proserum® native whey protein® concentrate contains all of the essential amino acids for the body as well as providing cysteine and glutamine. These amino acids are precursors and are necessary for the production of glutathione, a vital antioxidant in the body. Whey protein is also an amazing source of branch-chain amino acids. In fact, it has been found to be the best protein for muscle building and weight management.
The best way to optimize your protein intake is to choose a variety of high protein foods every day. As long as you eat a variety of healthy protein sources at most meals and snacks, you will meet your protein needs.
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