For quite a while now, we’ve known that soy belongs in the category of healing foods. It is a staple of cuisine for a long list of countries across the globe, and is an excellent source of nutrition. A new study supports soy as an excellent source of protein. Despite it coming from a plant, researchers have found that its protein is of the same high quality as that from meat, eggs and dairy.
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The idea of what makes a protein a “quality protein” has not been as easy to determine. This new study, published in the “Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry,” took a closer look at what criteria we use to determine that quality.
Traditional methods have shown animal proteins such as milk and eggs to be high in quality. But those who follow more plant-based diets have a more difficult time determining which of their choices are high in quality. Testing methods have shown that most plant proteins, such as pea protein, are lower in quality than animal-based proteins.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend using the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) as a simple way to assess protein quality. This method focuses on three things
1. The amount of each essential amino acid it has.
2. How easily the food can be digested.
3. Whether it meets the amino acid requirements set for children aged two to five years (during key periods of growth and development).
According to the new study, soy protein has a PDCAAS of 1.0. This means it serves as a high-quality protein, meeting the needs of both children and adults. Eggs, dairy and meat proteins also have a PDCAAS score of 1.0.
It’s important for people to understand that a plant-based diet is healthy, but that not all proteins are created equal. If you are planning a vegetarian diet or want to incorporate more plant proteins in your diet, measures such as the PDCAAS scale can help you make wise health decisions. You can select proteins that score higher so that you get the important amino acids you need. These are the building blocks of protein.