Complete & Incomplete Protein
When it comes to protein, there source truly does matter. Getting quality protein from the correct source makes a huge difference in the nutrient profile and the absorption of those nutrients as well!
The word protein simply refers to the combination of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. There are 8 essential amino acids that our body cannot produce, meaning we must get them from the food we eat.
Protein sources can come in two forms: complete and incomplete. Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins do not contain all the essential amino acids - they are missing one or more.
When it comes to choosing protein, we want our dense sources of protein to come from complete sources of protein because they not only contain all the essential amino acids, but the amino acids are all in the proper, natural proportion to each other, all in one perfect package. Animal proteins are complete proteins, which is why I always recommend we choose our protein from animals sources compared to other sources of protein, like plant protein.
Plant protein has been given a ton of hype in the past. It's been made out to be a superfood, when in actuality, it really isn't. Plant proteins are incomplete, meaning that they don't have the complete profile of amino acids in the proper proportions. They might have some of the amino acids - but not all.
When it comes down to it, our bodies need complete proteins that contain the right combinations of amino acids to build tissues as nature intended, support our cells, regular appetite control, support neurological health and nerve health, and build strong hair and nails. Simply put, our bodies need complete proteins! Plus, since animal proteins are also amazing sources of important vitamins and minerals (zinc, iron, vitamin A, choline, etc), we are getting the most complete form of of nutrients - vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
In addition, protein and certain nutrients from plants are much harder to digest or assimilate when compared to animal protein. Examples include iron and B vitamins, specifically Vitamin B12. We cannot get absorbable Vitamin B12 from plant sources, no matter how hard we try!
Moreover, plants (especially grains and legumes, which are the typical sources of plant protein), contain anti-nutrients, lectins, and phytic acid, all of which inhibit digestion, cause harm to the gut, and keep us from absorbing their nutrients. These mechanisms are defensive mechanisms to ward off predators from the plants when they are in their natural state or habitat.
Therefore, if we want to build up our cells and keep our bodies strong and healthy, we must be eating enough wholesome sources of animal protein - at every single meal (yes, even breakfast). Whole eggs, turkey, beef, chicken, pork, seafood, organ meat - these are all amazing sources of complete proteins that also come packaged with the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to thrive!
For women, aim for 3-8 ounces of animal protein at each meal and 2-4 ounces for snacks throughout the day. Men should aim for anywhere from 8-12 ounces per meal and 4-6 ounces per snack. Those who are sedentary should be on the lower end of the spectrum, while those who are more active should be on the higher end. Another simple way to "measure" would be to use your entire hand - that equates to approximently how much protein you need at each meal.
My favorite protein sources are ground meats and salmon - what are yours?