Lab to Life Series: 4 Tips to Distinguish Protein Quality

Lab to Life Series: 4 Tips to Distinguish Protein Quality

Do you stop to consider the quality of the protein you are consuming? I definitely didn’t for a long time.

The importance of consuming enough protein often overshadows the importance of eating quality protein. Additionally, it’s often not talked about.

I personally experienced noticeable shifts as soon as I started learning about & consuming better quality protein. Namely, my energy levels.

But what does quality protein mean? If you are unsure, feel like you are consuming enough protein but don’t reap the benefits you expect, this blog is for you.


1. The Amount Of Quality Protein:

Firstly, although the quality matters, at the end of the day, you should consider protein sources that are high in protein.For example, it is important to note that animal sources contain 2 – 10 times more protein than vegetable and cereal sources. That being said, it is still possible to get enough quality and quantity protein through a plant based diet.


2. The Essential Amino Acid Profile:

Our bodies need, on a daily basis, 20 different amino acids that come from proteins. This helps build and repair muscle, bones, tissues and drive enzymes and hormones. Our body makes most of the amino acids we need except for nine, known as the nine essential amino acids. These must come from food. The first determinant of protein quality is the amount of each of these nine essential amino acids – this varies widely.

A protein containing all nine essential amino acids is considered complete. On the whole, animal proteins sources will tend to have all nine present, and enough of each to be considered complete. Conversely, it is harder to find vegetable proteins that have all nine essential. However, there are some exceptions such as spirulina. Additionally, proteins in some plants such as soy, pea, and rice are nearly complete. It is important to note that plant proteins can be complimented , the amino acid profile of a 70:30 pea:rice protein blend is similar to that of whey.

Additionally, it is important to note that some amino acids are heat sensitive and can be lost in the heating/cooking process. See more details below in “what is considered clean protein”.


3. Absorption:

Absorption determines how well the body uses up the essential amino acids found in what we eat. If we can’t digest, absorb and utilize the amino acids in the protein, they serve no purpose. As an example, eggs are a complete source of protein. However, cooked eggs are easier to digest than raw eggs. Therefore, it is more beneficial to eat an egg cooked instead of raw.

Additionally, the human gut doesn’t absorb many plant-based proteins well, whether cooked or raw, because of substances like phytic acid. These ‘anti-nutrients’ are commonly found in grains, beans, seeds and nuts, and have been shown to block nutrient absorption. This digestibility has been defined by FAO/WHO as the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) and more recently Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS).


4. What Else Comes With The Package:

We consume what our animal source of protein ate and the soil in which our vegetable proteins grew from.

This is our clean factor (or not). It is important to be aware of what we are exposed to, through the way the animal or food was raised or grown. For example: pesticides, growth hormones, GMO (animal feed) antibiotics. Additionally, consider what has been added in processing like sodium, food colourings, preservatives and trans fats. We want to make sure our food is a clean as possible.

In the end, no matter what protein source you choose during a meal, your body will thank you if you choose clean protein more often than not.


What is considered clean protein?


When looking at a protein source always consider how and where the plant was grown or the animal was raised.As mentioned above, we are ingesting what that plant or animal takes in, into our bodies. Clean animal protein comes from a clean animal source that is 100% grass fed, raised in a natural environment, hormone and antibiotic free. A non-genetically modified plant is an example of a clean plant protein.

For protein powders, cold processed protein ensures all health building elements (AAs and EAAs) are not destroyed. Clean cold processed protein provides many benefits. These include building blocks for bones, muscles, skin and hair. Additionally, it builds our immune system, acts as a powerful antioxidant, promotes healthy moods and improves sleep cycles.

When the protein source is heated, some EAAs can degrade (most animal proteins are cooked in some way before serving). Therefore, be sure to include cold protein sources to round out your protein consumption.