As sit here about to compile my list of The Top 5 Protein Superfoods, I do so knowing that the subject of nutrition is already in itself a contentious one, and especially so when talking about protein intake.
So before my list of the Top 5 Protein Superfoods, I’ll explain quickly my overall view, followed by some qualifying statements.
Overall when talking about Protein intake, I believe the research indicates that we don’t actually need anywhere near as much as many of us have been led to believe. What is most important is that we consume high quality protein that assimilates well.
- Protein intake needs to be in accordance with our constitutional type.
Going by the well known Metabolic Typing ® System developed by William Willcott there are broadly three metabolic types; ( Protein Type, Carbohydrate Type and Mixed Type). Obviously a Protein Type is going to have relatively more proportion of protein in their diet than the other two types.
- Even assuming you’re a “protein type”, you don’t need to (or even should be) eating a lot of protein.
Here in Australia the average daily adult protein consumption is 92 grams. According to Metabolic Specialist Dr Ron Rosedale, per 1kg of body weight, the vast majority of us need no more than 0.8gm of protein per 1 kg of body weight. That figure would therefore in fact be high for a Carbohydrate Type, whilst considered the “right amount” even for a Protein Type.
Now for a Protein Type who exercises particularly hard, Dr Rosedale believes that person might have reason to increase their protein up to 1gm per 1kg of body weight. The point he stresses though is that having more protein intake than needed, doesn’t do any additional benefit. In fact it only puts more stress on the body, and eventually decreases our insulin and leptin sensitivity (which may in turn lead to metabolic conditions such as weight gain and diabetes).
- Quality and Digestibility of Protein Needs to be a Considered.
Certainly a food being a “complete (or near to) protein” i.e containing all 9 essential amino acids needs to be met in order for it be be a “quality” protein.
Animal protein (meat and eggs) meet that criteria, whereas many plant-based protein foods don’t. Nonetheless, no animal proteins make my list of The Top 5 Protein Superfoods. The reason is because of digestibility.
According to Dr Gabriel Cousens animals protein are only assimilated at between 15-18%. (Incidentally, the protein in eggs (when consumed raw) is the most highly assimilated protein at around 45%).
- Hemp – Hemp foods are widely considered the best vegan source of protein on the planet. A near complete protein, containing some 33% pure, highly digestible protein, it’s hard to argue with hemp protein being number one. Hemp foods such as hemp seeds also deliver a near perfect ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 essential fatty acids. Even better, when processed into Hemp Protein Powder you having a powder containing typically 50% protein.
- Bee Pollen – is the most complete food found in nature. Protein makes up approximately 25% of bee pollen, with that protein containing 21 essential amino acids, that are especially easy to assimilate due to the incredible amount of digestive enzymes its contains. Additionally, bee pollen contains nearly all B vitamins, along with 25 vitamins and 25 minerals.
- Spirulina – Gram for gram spirulina has the highest content of protein on the planet, boasting 65-70% of it’s weight made up from protein. Further Spirulina is believed to be about 85-95% assimilatable. A tablespoon of Spirulina, delivers about 4.5gm of protein, along with a host of other valuable nutrients, including essential fatty acids, GLA and trace minerals.
- Goji Berries – are a complete protein, containing in fact 18 amino acids, included in a Trail Mix containing other protein rich foods such as nuts and seeds, you gain a wonderful protein kick with two of three handfuls. Of course Goji berries and even more renowned for their incredible amounts of antioxidants, along with iron and essential fatty acids.
- Rice Protein Powder – whilst technically less a food and more a supplement added to foods such as smoothies or yogurt, I’ve listed Rice Protein as Protein Powders have become such a popular food item to health conscious people. Rice Protein Powder, I believe after Hemp Protein Powder, rates as the next best. I say this still, despite rice protein, not being a complete protein. What makes it the next best protein powder after hemp protein powder is it’s digestibility. It also rates highly for taste and it’s ability to blend well (which many protein don’t).
On the subject of Protein Powders, Whey Protein is often marketed heavily as being ideal. Nutrition is very much a science where truth, very much comes from which side of the research you’re coming from. This article I believe spells out some compelling arguments against Whey Protein.
Before listing my Top 5 Protein Superfoods, I wrote 3 qualifying statements in order to disqualify animal proteins from being among The Top 5 Protein Superfoods.
At a time when everyone it seems wants to get more protein into the diet, many of us eating way too much animal protein. Whilst a lean 200gm steak might deliver some 70gm of protein, if only 15-18% of it is being assimilated then it’s not a great source of protein. Also, if we take into account Dr Rosedale recommendation that most people should be consuming 0.8 grams of protein per 1 kg of body weight, then consuming 70gm of protein (which doesn’t assimilate well) in one meal makes questionable sense.
In the end, what I believe ought to qualify as a “Protein Superfood” is a food that delivers high quality protein that is well assimilated. After all, if our protein needs are not particularly high in the first place, then shouldn’t the focus then be on getting the purest, highest quality protein?
Include a few of the above superfoods in your diet everyday and you’ll easily get all the protein you’ll need, and better still you get all the other benefits that a true Superfood delivers.