Stefanie Senior

By: Stefanie Senior

Registered Dietitian, 
in collaboration with Live Right Now

While most people eat enough protein, some may not be getting the right amount, at the right time of day while others may not be getting enough "high quality" protein sources.

Protein is made up of building blocks called "amino acids." Nine of these amino acids are "essential," meaning that you must get them from food because your body cannot make them.

Animal sources of protein including meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs and dairy, have all nine essential amino acids making them "complete" proteins.

Most plant sources of protein, with the exception of soybeans, are "incomplete" because they lack one or more essential amino acids.

"Protein quality" is measured using the digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS), which compares a protein's amino acid quality based on both the amino acid needs of humans and our ability to digest it.

Eggs and milk products have a high PDCAAS, making them excellent sources of protein for vegetarians.

But what about vegans who do not eat animal products at all? Soy, tofu, and edamame are "high quality" protein options, but it is very important to choose a variety of other meat alternatives such as beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters and whole grains. If you are vegetarian or vegan it is a good idea to consult a dietitian to determine if you need more meat alternatives to get enough protein. Strict vegetarian and vegan athletes may need up to 10 per cent more protein.

Vegetarian or not, protein is not stored in the body for long which is why it is advised to consume a protein source at every meal and snack. This will help you stay satisfied between meals, keep your energy levels up and help you maintain or build muscle mass depending on your goals.

Curious how much protein you should be getting? Click here to use our Get Enough tool.

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