Protein: Searching for a Perfect 1.0

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Michelle B / June 20th, 2012

According to a recent IFIC survey – the majority of Americans report that they are trying to consume more protein.  But it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the options available.  Which is the ‘right’ choice or what are the foods with the greatest protein quality?

Protein is one of the most important macronutrients, essential for the human body.  However, all proteins are not created equal – they can differ in terms of their quality.

So, what is protein quality?

You might hear the term “high quality protein” but you aren’t sure what it means.  High quality proteins  are proteins that are most efficiently used by the body and provide adequate amounts of all the necessary essential amino acids for growth and development in children and adults.

How is it measured?

There is a way of evaluating protein quality so everyone can’t claim that their protein is high quality.  The most widely accepted method is PDCAAS. PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score) was developed by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) as an improvement over the Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER) method.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has used PDCAAS as a standard for calculating percent Daily Value (%DV) of protein on food labels since 1993.

What does it mean for a protein to be a perfect 1.0?

You’ve heard of the “perfect 10” but in the world of protein, it’s a 1.0 that’s the gold standard. Using the PDCAAS method, 1.0 is the highest possible score a protein can receive for protein quality. This score means that after the protein is digested, it provides 100% of the indispensible amino acids required per unit of protein.

Isolated soy protein is the only widely available plant protein that scores a 1.0, which makes it comparable to milk (casein) and egg whites. Most other plant proteins have lower protein quality scores.

Other proteins that score a 1.0 on PDCAAS are:  casein (milk protein), egg white, whey (milk protein).   Beef protein scores a 0.92.

So keep this in mind when meal planning – make your proteins high quality!

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