Dr. Bomi Joseph’s Recommended Best Protein Sources

Proteins are one of the most important building blocks of life. They build and repair the body’s tissue, regulate PH balance, transport and store vital nutrients. Every protein in our body is constructed out of 21 different amino acids that are stored in a “amino acid reserve pool” in our body. Most people have about a 2 weeks’ supply of spare amino acids on hand.

Life requires all 21 amino acids but our body produces only 12 of them. The other 9 are called the “essential amino acids” because we have to get them from our diet. These essential amino acid are:

  1. Phenylalanine

  2. Valine

  3. Threonine

  4. Tryptophan

  5. Methionine

  6. Leucine

  7. Isoleucine

  8. Lysine

  9. Histidine

Many popular foods and bodybuilding supplements are claimed to be rich in protein or aminos acids, but often they don’t contain most the essential amino acids listed above. If you look at the nutrition facts label of popular bodybuilding supplements, such as BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids), you will see that many of them only contain 3 of the 9 essential acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. This is only because these aminos are cheap and readily available.

While the packaging may look sophisticated and flashy, a protein supplement that contains only 3 amino acids (out of 9 essential ones) is a lousy protein source. So how does it “bulk” people up? Many bodybuilding supplements contain bulking agents — such as taurine, glutamine, citrulline and alanine – that “pump” up the muscle without actually building any new tissue. None of these so-called “protein supplements” we analyzed turned out to be a high-quality source: most scored very poorly on the DIAAS scale (Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score) that measures protein absorbability.

The digestibility, chemical integrity, freedom from interference, chain length and effects of processing all affect the bioavailability (absorption) of the amino acids.

The easiest way to evaluate the digestibility and the nutritional value of a protein is to look up its DIAAS score. A score greater than 100% is excellent and provides all the amino acids required in nutrition. A score of less than 75% cannot be considered a viable protein source. A score between 75% and 100% is an average protein source that only provides some of the amino acids the body needs.

Amino acid requirements also vary by age. A 6-month-old baby requires 220% the amino acids (measured in mg/kg/day) that an 18-year-old needs. A 6-month-old baby requires 22 mg/kg/day of the amino acid histidine. An 18-year-old needs 10 mg/kg/day. Feeding infants the essential amino acids they need is far more critical than a 40-year-old weight lifter guzzling so-called “protein shakes” with less than 50% DIAAS values.

Among adults, we have found that active adults require 70% more amino acids than inactive adults. Healthier adults who lived 20 years longer than the average required twice more amino acids than average (70 mg/kg/day vs 35 mg/kg/day).

Reach for These 6 Nourishing Protein Superfoods

According to the research of Dr. Bomi Joseph, an adult’s protein requirements vary with health and fitness. An inactive 160 lb. adult needs around 50 grams of protein. The same-sized active adult needs about 100 grams a day. In either case, this means a high-quality protein source with a DIAAS score greater than 100%. Animal sources of protein are not necessarily better than vegetable sources. The 9 essential amino acids from vegetables are exactly the same when broken down, like the ones found in animals.

Mixing and matching a healthy variety of vegetables can supply all the essential amino acids we need for nutrition. The largest mammal in the world, the blue whale, lives exclusively off phytoplanktons and krill. The largest land mammal, the elephant, gets all its essential amino acids from plants. The huge, muscular bulls that provide us with beef are grass-eating vegetarians.

Here are some of the best-quality protein choices that will keep you healthy and strong without the excess calories that make you fat:

1. Whey Protein

Whey proteins contain smaller proteins that are water-soluble. These have a 106% DIAAS score and are a convenient way to get a protein boost. Protein shakes are often vegan-friendly and can contain as many as 30 grams of protein in a single, low-calorie serving, with as much as 90% of their calories coming from protein.

In addition to the whey powder itself, you can also add protein-packed seeds like chia or flax into the mix and topped off with a dollop of almond or peanut butter.

2. Egg Whites

Egg whites have a DIAAS score of 100%. It is easy to make an egg-white omelet. Almost any leftovers can be tossed in to make a delicious breakfast scramble.

3. Soy Products

Soybean products like tofu, tempeh, and edamame are legitimately healthy foods that have suffered some unfounded negative publicity in the USA. More than 2 billion Asian men have been eating soy for centuries without suffering from low testosterone or enlarged breasts. Soy has a DIAAS score of 96% because its methionine level is lower than optimum. If soy protein is consumed along with methionine rich foods like Brazil nuts, hemp seeds, squash, cashews and pistachio nuts, the blended DIAAS score goes up to 103% and it becomes an excellent source of protein.

4. Spirulina

Spirulina is a type of dried algae. Its DIAAS score is 96% because it is slightly short in cysteine. Combine Spirulina with high cysteine sources like oatmeal, lentils, sunflower seeds or cheese and you have an excellent protein source with a DIAAS bioavailability greater than 100%.

5. Broccoli

As one of the most protein-dense vegetables under the sun, broccoli is all but essential for vegans. About 20% of broccoli’s caloric content comes from protein, so you can get a large quota of your daily intake without going overboard on calories. Broccoli is also chock-full of other nutrients like fiber, vitamins C and K, and potassium.

6. Tuna

For those not on vegan diets, tuna is easily one of the best and most versatile protein sources available. As much as 94% of tuna’s caloric content comes from protein, which is delivered alongside many of the essential amino acids your body needs. Tuna is also incredibly lean (nearly fat-free) and a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. It’s a great addition to salads to help boost their protein content, along with other lean meats and cheese.

Regardless of the type of diet you currently adhere to, it’s important to ensure you receive adequate servings of protein. Dr. Bomi Joseph suggests slowly incorporating different types of food into your diet and monitoring what works best for your body type.