Protein confusion? 5 factors to evaluate protein quality and sources that we need to know

Protein confusion? 5 factors to evaluate protein quality and sources that we need to know

August 26, 2017

Lab-to-life Blog is for our like minded community who believe that great taste and health should live together in harmony.   As a team, we are always looking into research that clarifies the links between food and health. This series is for sharing information that we find useful. The goal is that it contributes to  discernment, to help maximise "pleasures of the plate" while  minimising  the costs to health associated with less informed decisions.   Questions and comments welcome!


Based on research and interviews with Chief Science Officer Dr. Jean-Francois Lesgards.  Jean-Francois holds a Post Doctorate in Chemistry/Biochemistry and has 20 years of fundamental and clinical research in nutrition/ food, health and inflammatory diseases and is a well published authority. By Sheila Partrat.

 

Protein confusion? 5 factors to evaluate protein quality and differences between animal & vegetable sources that we all need to know

S.P.: What are our protein sources?

JF: Proteins come from animal sources (like meat, poultry, fish eggs and dairy)  as well as certain vegetables, legumes and grains and even fruits.  However it’s easier to reach our daily intake (1g/kg of body weight) with protein rich food.  Animal sources contains 2 – 10 times more protein than vegetable and cereal sources . It’s ideal to mix both.

 

S.P.: “How do animal and vegetable protein sources differ, and what is the impact on our health?

J.F.: The key difference is in their amino acid profiles, the building blocks of proteins and the rate at which our bodies can absorb and put them to use. Animal proteins have globally a better Essential Amino Acid  profile than plants and vegetables proteins.

Vegetal proteins can be digested, however some vegetal matrix’ (like in soybean, peas and fava beans) contain anti-nutritional factors such as trypsin inhibitor, leptin and tannins which can reduce protein use in the body, by inhibition of protein hydrolysis and AAs absorption.

 

S.P.: How can we determine the  quality of a protein?

J.F. There are five  criteria that we should think about when evaluating the quality of our protein:

  1. The amount of quality protein that are made by this food.  It’s important to consider that animal sources contains 2 – 10 times more protein than vegetable and cereal sources.

 

  1. The essential Amino Acid Profile: Our bodies need on a daily basis, 20 different amino acids that come from proteins to build and repair muscle, bones, tissues and drive enzymes and hormones. Our body can make most amino acids we need except for a few (known as the essential amino acids) which MUST come from food. The first determinant of protein quality is the amount of each of these eight essential amino acids. This varies widely.  On the whole, animal proteins sources will have a better amino acid profile (better quantity of each of the 8 essential ones) where as Vegetable proteins will have less of one or the other
  1.   Absorption. This second factor shows  how well the amino acids, building blocks of protein are absorbed by the body.  If we can’t digest, absorb and utilize the amino acids in the proteins,  it's useless..   As an example, eggs are a complete protein source but cooked eggs are easier to  digest than raw eggs. Many plant-based proteins are not absorbed well by the human gut, whether cooked or raw, because of substances such as 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 called,  Protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) and more recently Digestible indispensable amino acid score (DIAAS)

PDCAAS

DIAAS

Milk protein (casein & whey) – 1.0

Egg White – 1.0

Soy – 1.0

Beef – 0.92

Chickpeas – 0.78

Kidney Beans – 0.68

Peanuts – 0.52

Wheat – 0.40

Wheat gluten – 0.25

DIAAS

Whole Milk – 1.32
Whey Protein Isolate – 1.25
Whey Protein Concentrate – 1.1
Beef – 1.1
Soy Isolate – 1.0
Pea Isolate – 0.95
Chickpeas – 0.66
Peas – 0.64
Barley – 0.58
Kidney Beans – 0.51
Wheat – 0.4

 

  1.    Quality of fats that comes with:   Fats can either save you or harm you. Become aware of the quality of fats are associated with our proteins. A note about Omega 3 and 6 which can be confusing. Both are essential fatty acids and we need both. One is not  "good" while the other "bad." Both  offer their own unique health benefits. The challenge is the ratio.  Most experts agree that the omega 6:3 ratio should range from 1:1 to 5:1.  The sad reality is that it now ranges from 20 to 50:1.   

 

  1. What else comes with the package:  Our clean factor  We eat what our animal source of protein ate and are affected by what is in the soil that our vegetable proteins grew from. This is our clean factor (or not). Keep in mind what we are exposed to, through the way the animal or food was raised or grown : pesticides, growth hormones, GMO (animal feed) antibiotics, Or, what has been added in the process like sodium,  food colorings, preservatives, transfats? . We want to make sure our food is a clean as possible.

 

S.P. Jean Francois - the Essential amino acid profile is evidently important and can only come from food. More details please on the importance of these essential amino acids on our health.

J.F: EAA Cysteine: It contributes to making glutathione, which is our major antioxidant. It is the most efficient detoxifying agent of the body (after water!): Glutathione cleans up our body from toxins such as heavy metals, solvents and pesticides, and send them out in our urine.

EAA Tyrosine which helps makes the hormone dopamine, plays a major role in motivation, interest and pleasure . A lack of dopamine is a major cause of depression that can be associated to fatigue and headache in the morning , difficulty concentrating and remembering, loss of motivation, pleasure and desire.  Dopamine is a precursor for other hormones which make us feel more aware, increase our attention and memory and stabilise emotions.  

EAA Amino acid tryptophan helps in the synthesis  the hormones serotonin. Deficiency can lead to impulsive behaviour, irritability, aggression, insomnia, night waking and depression. Indeed, serotonin is important for mood and avoiding negative thoughts. It also helps in the formation of  melatonin,  the molecule which permits us to have a good  night's sleep



S.P.: “How do animal and vegetable protein sources differ, and what difference does it make to me?

J.F.: The key difference is in their amino acid profiles, the building blocks of proteins and the rate at which our bodies can absorb and put them to use. Animal proteins have globally a better Essential Amino Acid  profile than plants and vegetables proteins.

Vegetal proteins can be digested, however some vegetal matrix’ (like in soybean, peas and fava beans) contain anti-nutritional factors such as trypsin inhibitor, leptin and tannins which can reduce protein use in the body, by inhibition of protein hydrolysis and AAs absorption.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Use this  to “get to know” your protein

Animal sources

Vegetable sources

Macro nutrient protein profile

  • quality: generally good essential amino acid profile, and easy for the body to use quantity: higher units per serving than vegetable
  • Quantity per serving: between 2 and 10 x more per serving than from vegetable sources

Macro nutrient protein profile

  • quality: Variable essential amino acid profile and not always easy for the body to use
  • Quantity per serving: Variable. Between 2 and 10 x less than protein from animal sources

Associated fats: Variable in quality. Animal sources can be high in saturated fats . Be mindful of the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6

Associated fats: Generally speaking more favorable profile than industrially raised meat, poultry , eggs dairy and fish

Associated carbohydrates: None to speak of in animal sources

Associated carbohydrates Often higher amount than from animal sources

Associated vitamins & minerals. Low to medium

Associated vits. & minerals. Medium to high

The unwanted stuff that comes with: Depending on origin, we can be exposed to  antibiotics, growth hormones and  pesticides from feed. That’s why clean sources are important!

The unwanted stuff that comes with: We are less exposed than with animal sources, mostly pesticides

Some sources of proteins to consider

Meat

Soy (Soy beans, tofu and tempeh)

Poultry

Nuts & seeds: pistachio cashews & pumpkin seeds

Fish

Quinoa and buckwheat

Dairy and eggs

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils

Protein powders ( Whey, Casein, Egg based)

Protein Powders (Soy, Brown Rice, Hemp & Pea




Thanks Jean-Francois. Ok, so understanding the distinguishing factors of quality protein is essential. Next time, we are going to look into a “hot topic”. If dairy is “getting such a bad wrap” lately, then why is grass fed cold processed whey so good for you???!! . Blog post #4.


 



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