We all know protein is essential to us for good health and for 3 good reasons:
- They provide amino acids for muscle repair
- Consuming protein with each meal balances blood sugar which can aid in healthy weight loss
- Protein contains essential amino acids which are bodies can not produce that are used to make immune cells and neurotransmitters
- There are two main classes of amino acids: essential and nonessential. It is essential that you get essential amino acids via your diet because your body cannot make them. Contrast this to nonessential amino acids, which your body can synthesize on an as-needed basis in addition to getting them via your diet.
For various reasons ranging from poor food choices, busy and hectic work schedules, trying to limit animal proteins that are rich in saturated fats, picky eating, some children and adults do not get enough protein from their regular meals. To maintain muscle building and prevent breakdown, the evidence has shown that even sedentary individuals require protein daily. A solution has been convenient protein powders to boost daily intake. The big question is do you choose whey or a vegan (soy, rice, pea, hemp, sachi/savi seed etc.) protein? Below are pros and cons of each.
Whey There are reasons why athletes and those very knowledgeable about health consider whey the gold standard. Whey, a protein complex derived from milk can be part of a casein free diet if the whey is separated 100 percent from the casein such as in IQed. Whey is a complete protein with an extremely high biological value rich in all the essential amino acids and is quickly absorbed by the human body. The biological components of whey, including lactoferrin, betalactoglobulin, alpha-lactalbumin, glycomacropeptide, and immunoglobulins, demonstrate a range of immune-enhancing properties. In addition, whey has the ability to act as an antioxidant, antihypertensive, antitumor, hypolipidemic, antiviral, antibacterial, and chelating agent.
The primary mechanism by which whey is thought to exert its effects is by intracellular conversion of the amino acid cysteine to glutathione, a potent intracellular antioxidant. A number of clinical trials have successfully been performed using whey. Whey protein has also exhibited benefit in the arena of exercise performance and enhancement Whey is a “fast-acting” protein, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, which means that the body digests it quickly and easily. That makes whey especially beneficial for stimulating muscle growth and development, in conjunction with regular strength training. Whey can also help improve body composition. In 2011, “The Journal of Nutrition” published the results of a study in which overweight adults who supplemented their regular diets with whey experienced body fat loss and waist circumference reductions over a 23-week trial period. Whey protein has the highest biological value (the proportion of absorbed protein that’s retained in the body for maintenance and growth) of any protein, which means it’s highly usable by the body. Whey protein also is one of the richest sources of leucine, an essential and branched-chain amino acid that triggers initiation of muscle protein synthesis. Whey is being touted as a functional food with a number of health benefits and it's:
- Complete protein – Whey contains the full spectrum of all the essential amino acids. This is key for muscle function and growth
- Higher in Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) – These specific amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) stimulate muscle growth and maintenance
- Supports detoxification – Whey is higher in the amino acid cysteine which is the key precursor to glutathione, a powerful detoxifier and antioxidant.
- Boosts the immune system – Our immune cells require amino acids to be produced, but whey contains special molecules called immunoglobulins that stimulate immune function.
- “Whey is rich in immunoglobulins, alpha-lactalbumin, and beta-lactalbumin and other immune boosting factors “Lactoferrin exhibits a wide range of antimicrobial and immunotropic properties. It facilitates iron absorption, promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and suppresses the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Additionally, lactoferrin confers resistance against proteolytic degradation in the alimentary tract.”
- Most consider it better tasting than veggie proteins
Vegan Sources of Protein Pea, Soy, Hemp, Rice, Sachi/Savi Seed
If you don't eat animal products, then you must get your protein from plant sources. The catch with plant protein sources is that they do not always contain all the essential amino acids in required proportions, making them incomplete proteins. The positive would be that many vegan sources would be considered hypoallergenic, so for those allergic to whey these proteins could be an option. But outside of that there are other things to consider.
- Taste – the taste of veggie proteins (especially pea and rice) can be poorly tolerated by some people, however this is a personal preference.
- Incomplete protein. Most vegan proteins in popular demand today do not contain all the essential amino acids in required proportions which negatively impact bioavailability.
- Not optimal for muscle building – vegan proteins have lower amounts of amino acids required for muscle building and glutathione production compared to whey.
- Contamination -for example arsenic in rice Read more
- FDA analysis of research links inorganic arsenic exposure to lung and bladder cancer, adverse pregnancy outcomes and decreased performance on children's developmental tests. Babies who eat rice cereals and other rice-based snacks have been found to have higher arsenic concentrations than infants who did not take any rice. One study, published in the JAMA Pediatrics looked at 759 infants born to mothers in the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study from 2011 to 2014. In their results, researchers found that total urinary arsenic concentrations were twice as high among infants who ate white or brown rice compared with those who ate no rice.
The reasons many companies today have gone to "protein blends" is often because whey has skyrocketed in costs and many of these other protein sources are inexpensive. For example using pea protein is a good way to maintain a minimum standard of quality while reducing costs. This may be why pea protein is on the rise for use in dog food which is a concern to some.
According to an article addressing the rise in the use of pea protein in pet food 'Disappointing Trend In Rising Pet Food Market' which cites Lund University, SwedenTommy Jonsson, Stefan Olsson, Thornkild C. Bog Hanson and The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University Copenhagen, Denmark there are dietary concerns. "Legumes are high in phytic acid. Phytates have a tendency to bind calcium, magnesium, and iron in animals and humans. The other concern is lectin. Lectin proteins are a plants natural defense. While birds can digest these proteins, humans and carnivores cannot.
Lectins are designed by nature to work through the digestive lining in order to break down it’s predators system and disrupt digestion. When undigested protein enters the blood stream, the immune system sets up an auto immune response resulting in allergies. Lectins are sticky, binding proteins. They attach to leptin receptors which regulate carbohydrates into glucose. In time, they can disrupt these receptors and lead to diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease; conditions very prevalent in humans and pets today. Lectins also attach to villi in the digestive tract. They block absorption of nutrients. In time the damage becomes permanent."
While chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) have a rich history as well as numerous studies to support their use as a complete protein with omega 3s, there isn't yet enough research to know much about the sachi seed, savi seed or peanut (sacha inchi) other than it's another source of protein with omega 3s.
The following is pulled from Lyle McDonald's resources from his book The Protein Book: A Complete Guide for the Athlete and Coach 2007 "
Digestibility: Before a protein can be used by the body, it has to be digested and absorbed into the bloodstream for use by the body. Proteins vary in their digestibility and, logically, a protein that is poorly digested will be a poor source simply because less of what’s being eaten is being made available to the body. A topic related to digestibility is the speed of digestion and there has been interest since about the late 90’s in how a given protein’s digestion speed affects how it is used by the body.
Animal source proteins such as meat, milk and eggs show extremely high (90%+) digestion while vegetable source proteins show much lower values.
|Protein||Absorption Rate (g/hour)|
|Raw Egg Protein *||1.4|
|Cooked Egg Protein *||2.9|
|Soy Protein Isolate||3.9|
|Tenderloin Pork Steak *||10.0|
|Food Source||Protein Digestibility (%)|
|Milk and Cheese||97|
|Mixed US Diet||96|
|Meat and Fish||94|
Source: National Research Council. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th ed. National Academy Press, 1989.
Also from Lyle McDonald's's Protein book "Looking at the chart above, two major things stand out. The first is that, contrary to the occasional vegetarian claim, vegetable source proteins have a significantly lower digestibility than animal source proteins. This actually has relevance for an issue beyond the scope of this article: protein Because they provide less available protein from consumption, a larger amount of vegetable proteins have to be consumed to meet human (or athletic) requirements.
The second is that commonly available animal-source food source proteins have extremely high digestibilities, 94-97%. This means that for every 100 grams of protein consumed, 94-97 grams are being digested and assimilated by the gut."
Currently out of all the choices in protein, here at Team IQed we wanted the best for our own families too which is why we chose an all natural casein free whey isolate protein over any other protein source. We added a bit of chia protein for the omegas 3s rather than as the key protein source. We put the same amount of consideration into all of our all natural food ingredients which like the whey isolate are also tested free of heavy metals, hormones, pesticides and herbicides, stimulants, preservatives, genetically modified ingredients or synthetic contaminants and manufactured under NSF-certified Good Manufacturing Practices at an FDA-inspected facility in the United States.
There may soon be other proteins for us to add to the list to consider such a cricket flour which is made by milling whole crickets. It's the one protein out there that may be comparable to whey. When we decide to do a dairy free version of IQed, this may be something we can if we can get over the "yuck" factor.
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Lisa Geng got her start as a designer, patented inventor, and creator in the fashion, toy, and film industries, but after the early diagnosis of her young children, she entered the world of nonprofit, pilot studies, and advocacy. As the mother of two “late talkers,” she is the founder and president of the nonprofit CHERAB Foundation, co-author of the acclaimed book, The Late Talker, (St Martin’s Press 2003), and is instrumental in the development of IQed, a whole food nutrition meal replacement. Lisa currently serves as a parent advocate on an AAN board for vaccines and is a member of CUE through Cochrane US. Lisa is currently working on a second book, The Late Talker Grows Up and serves as a Late Talkers, Silent Voices executive producer. She lives on the Treasure Coast of Florida.