Protein is a part of almost all foods we eat, legumes, meats, eggs, and even fruits and vegetables. The thing is, not all proteins are created equal; they differ in quantity, quality and digestibility too. Protein is the basic building block of the human body, we need it to repair muscle, bones, and skin, and to produce enzymes and hormones. That’s why we should choose protein sources carefully. Let’s look at some popular food groups and see how they compare.
How to spot a good protein?
Protein is just a fancy word for a group of acids. They are called by an even fancier name, amino acids, and they are the real building blocks for the human body. There are 21 different amino acids and you need them in a correct ratio to make up the best protein. The best protein also needs to be easy to digest. Thankfully, both of these parameters can be measured in a lab so that we can reliably judge the quality of protein (1).
Animal protein is better than plant protein
There are two main categories of protein: animal based and plant based. Animal proteins are usually easy to digest and have a favorable amino acid profile. Plant based proteins are protected by cellulose which makes them harder to digest and usually don’t contain the correct ratio of amino acids. This means that the human body will generally be able to utilize animal protein much better than plant protein.
Insect protein is just as good as animal
There’s another food group that’s often overlooked in the western world, insects. They contain proteins that are the same quality as beef. They have a very similar amino acid profile and digestibility (2). Plus they are sustainable and ethical to farm. It’s time we started taking the third option seriously and gave insects a try.
1) Gertjan Schaafsma, ‘The Protein Digestibility–Corrected Amino Acid Score’, The Journal of Nutrition 2000, http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/7/1865S.long
2) Dun Wang et. al, ‘Evaluation on Nutritional Value of Field Crickets as a Poultry Feedstuff’, Asian Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences, 2005, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264153795_Evaluation_on_Nutritional_Value_of_Field_Crickets_as_a_Poultry_Feedstuff