Top 10 Sources of Complete Protein: Animal vs Plant-Based

Protein is incredibly important, whether you want to lose fat, build muscle, or reduce our risk of common ailments, like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.


However, not all protein is created equal. Some sources are definitely better than others.


Considering the amount of protein we are required to eat each day to enjoy these benefits, it’s critical to know which foods to eat, and ones to stay away from.




What is the best source of protein?


Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids, all of which play an important and necessary role in our bodies. 11 of these are produced naturally by our body, and 9 we can only obtain from eating the right foods that have them. These amino acids that we can only obtain from food sources are called essential amino acids


The quality of a protein food source is first judged on how many of these 9 essential amino acids are in it, since missing certain amino acids could lead to trouble for our health. A complete protein has all 9 of these essential nutrients in the appropriate ratios optimal for our body.


The second quality is digestibility. Not all protein is digested the same. A quality protein source has a high digestibility of amino acids, meaning more of it is absorbed into our bodies. A poor source or protein might have plenty of essential amino acids, however they aren't absorbed by the body. Digestibility measures how many amino acids are absorbed when eating a particular protein source.


There are few methods used in the scientific community to judge the quality of a protein food source measuring these factors. Currently, the industry standard is the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). The rating scale ranges from 0-1, with the highest score being 1. 


For our purposes, it’s also important to look at protein per calorie. If your goal is to lose fat, you’ll want to find sources of protein that will provide you the most protein while minimizing calories. This way, you can eat all your necessary protein, while staying in a caloric deficit.


Here is a list of the top protein sources ranked across all these methods:



PDCAAS Score

Complete Protein?

Missing Amino Acid

Protein % of Calories

Cheese (Proteina) 1.0 Yes 66%

Milk (2%)

1.0

Yes

32%

Eggs

1.0

Yes

34%

Casein (Powder)

1.0

Yes

80%

Whey (Powder)

1.0

Yes

80%

Beef

0.92

No

Tryptophan

41%



As you can see, all of the top protein sources are from animal-based products. Also, the best bang for your buck is in a whey or casein protein powder to get a complete, highly digestible protein with tons of protein per calorie.


If you’re lactose-intolerant, your best bet is to stick with meat and isolated whey protein powders.


If you don’t eat animal-based protein sources, don’t fret. There are some plant-based alternatives that are complete (or close to), and rank very high in digestibility.



High Quality Plant-Based Proteins


If you are lactose-intolerant or restricted to eating only plant-based food sources, here are the top plant-based sources to get your protein as rated by the PDCAAS:



Source

PDCAAS score

Complete Protein?

Missing Amino Acids

Protein % of calories

Pea protein powder

0.9

No

Methionine

84%

Soy (Tofu)

0.9

No

Methionine

32%

Black Beans

0.8

No

Methionine

24%

Quinoa

0.7

Yes

15%




Methionine plays a critical role in the metabolism and health, and plays a key role in the creation of new blood vessels. If you are only eating protein from plant-based sources, or are growing tired of eating these food sources, it’s recommended you supplement with BCAAs to make sure you're getting this essential amino acid.



Summary


When choosing what proteins to eat, make sure you’re choosing food sources that have digestible, complete proteins, while minimizing calories. Top sources are: high-protein cheese, whey, eggs, and meat.


If you’re in a plant-based diet, ensure you’re choosing sources like Pea protein and Soy (e.g. tofu). Quinoa and beans are also great protein sources, however are laden with carbs, so make sure not to overdo it. If you don’t like these sources, you’ll need to supplement with amino acids.



Guess what? Proteina High-Protein cheese is full of complete, very digestible protein, and low in calories and fat. Buy some today.
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