Not All Protein is Created Equal

By Ruth Stoffel, Certified Nutritionist

We all know that we need protein in our diet. But not all protein is created equal. I’ve been tasked with comparing four sources of protein for this article. But before we dive into that, it’s important to note that there are two kinds of protein: complete and incomplete.

Complete protein has all nine of the amino acids necessary for human dietary needs and can be used immediately by your body. It comes mainly from animal sources like beef, chicken, and fish or from animal by-products like milk and eggs. There are a few vegetarian sources that provide complete protein like soy, quinoa, and hemp.quinoa. (Quinoa, often mistaken for a grain, is the seed of a leafy plant related to spinach, and is gluten- free).

Incomplete protein lacks one or more of the essential amino acids and is inferior to complete protein. Incomplete protein can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains.

Today, we are comparing salmon, tuna, beef brisket and Muscle Milk.

4 oz. pink salmon. Salmon and other varieties of fish are also excellent protein sources. A four ounce serving contains 33% fat (see Woojabooty profile below). The fat in salmon is less saturated than red meat and can provide you with essential fatty acids. Pregnant women should limit salmon consumption to 12 ounces per week to reduce the dangers of mercury.

4 oz. tuna, light, canned in water.. Tuna is naturally low in calories and a great source of omega fatty acids, in addition to being an excellent source of protein. Canned tuna (choose the one in water, not oil) has more than double the amount of B12 than salmon does, but it contains less Vitamin D. The same consumption guidelines for pregnant women apply to canned tuna as it does to salmon.

4 oz. beef brisket. Like fish, red meat packs a great protein punch and is an important dietary source of minerals, in particular iron and zinc (see chart below). The drawback with red meat is the large amounts of saturated fat. In this beef brisket example, you see the saturated fat content is double, sometimes triple that of salmon or tuna. The pluses are the high iron and zinc contents.

4 tbsp. Muscle Milk. Muscle Milk is a high-protein meal-replacement supplement that combines whey protein and casein protein. Both are complete proteins. Muscle Milk contains added carbohydrates and a high fat content. It has high levels of iron, zinc, Vitamin E, B9 (synthetic) and B12 (synthetic).

This article does not intend to state that one protein source is better another. As part of a balanced diet, variety is important. Mixing up your protein choices will keep your meals interesting and help you stay on track in reaching your nutritional goals.