Getting all the nutrients you need is hard enough without worrying about digestion. You know you need protein, but now you’ve heard some are easier to digest than others. All you want to know is what are the easiest proteins to digest?
The easiest proteins to digest allow you to absorb amino acids in the most efficient way. The proteins that have the highest score for digestion are egg and soy. Whey protein, which comes from dairy, is also considered easy to digest.
As you can see, many of the easiest proteins to digest are common allergens. Therefore, we’re taking a look at how to make protein digestion easier.
Keep reading to learn more about the most digestible animal-based and plant-based proteins. No matter what allergens or diet you may have, there’s a protein for you.
Is Protein Hard to Digest?
Proteins are hard for digestive enzymes to break apart, so they take longer to digest than carbs and fats. What makes protein harder to digest is the size of the amino acids inside. Protein is too complex to absorb on its own, so your body breaks it up.
Different forms of protein take longer to break apart in the digestive system than others. Cow’s milk is one of the most popular proteins, but it’s also the slowest digesting. A slow-digesting protein can be good if you want a slow release of amino acids for energy and strength.
For example, whey protein is popular among bodybuilders before workouts because of the speed at which amino acids are absorbed. Quicker workout recovery would require a faster-digesting protein.
Bloating and swelling of the stomach are the only true symptoms that a protein is hard to digest. Your body will give you signs as it works harder at trying to make the protein digestible.
Your options to fix the issue might be to try a different protein. However, you can make adjustments to the way you eat your protein in the future.
How Can You Make Protein Easier to Digest?
To make protein easier to digest you need hydrochloric acid to help break down the complex macronutrient. These enzymes in your stomach acid break down the food you eat. So to digest protein easily, eat more enzyme-rich foods.
Enzyme rich foods seem easy to find at first, but you may be destroying living enzymes before you get them. Cooking food destroys enzymes. To save your enzymes you won’t have to start a raw food diet, but you should be careful not to overcook your food.
You should also incorporate some raw foods with your protein intake. Instead of more complex carbs with your protein, try raw foods on the side.
Hemp hearts are a rare example of a protein that was naturally made to help you break down and absorb it properly. You can sprinkle a few hemp hearts on a salad as a side to help get the enzymes you need to make protein more digestible.
Be sure to take on the simple task of chewing your food well. Chewing will put less stress on your pancreas and aid with digestion.
More ways to make food easier to digest:
Avoid complex proteins and complex carbs in the same meal
Protein can be easier or harder to digest based on the other foods on the plate. As mentioned earlier foods that are enzyme-rich can help break down protein. Foods that are just as difficult to digest could give you more problems.
You can have trouble digesting both complex carbs and protein when consumed together. Try filling your plate with one major complex food at a time.
Protein and carbs complement each other because complex carbs help you absorb amino acids. However, if you have problems digesting protein you may need to eat them at different times.
Watch your acid intake
You need hydrochloric acid to break down proteins in your body but you also need to make sure you don’t overeat acidic foods. Low acid foods like whole grains, beans, and legumes along with veggies keep the pH in your stomach balanced.
You don’t need to eat all high acid foods on one plate. Try a good balance of acid and alkaline foods together. With a good mix and the right vitamins, like zinc, your body will balance the acid on its own.
Eat foods with vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 helps with protein synthesis by carrying amino acids through your bloodstream. You need B6 to absorb the nutrients in your protein. Most protein sources already have vitamin B6 built-in, but some have more than others.
What is the Most Digestible Protein?
The most digestible protein is considered to be egg whites. Eggs have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS).
PDCAAS score measures how digestible a protein is. Although the score is widely used it’s been criticized for how accurate it is.
A Digestible protein in this case means your body has the ability to break down the food. If a protein is “digestible” it means you can use the nutrient in that food effectively. The most digestible proteins will allow you to absorb all the amino acids found inside.
What Kind of Meat is Easiest to Digest?
Lean meat is the easiest to digest. Low-fat chicken and salmon is a better choice than red meat due to acidity. Acidic meat that is also wrapped in casings, like hot dogs or sausage, are the most difficult to digest.
The low-fat content and lack of fiber in chicken is what makes it so easy to digest. The popular dish also contains B vitamins which help with the absorption of amino acids.
Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t eat more steak if you need more protein. Red meat is the hardest food to digest. You would be better off trying a seafood dish for higher levels of digestible protein.
Try salmon when thinking of the best animal-based protein to consume. Fish is easy to digest and also loaded with B vitamins. Be careful, raw salmon is harder to digest than cooked.
What Plant-Based Proteins are Easiest to Digest?
One of the easiest plant-based proteins to digest is hemp. When you eat hemp your body can easily absorb the amino acids. Since hemp has all nine essential amino acids it’s the best of the plant-based proteins you can find.
Plant-based proteins are not always easy to digest, but some have nutrients that help with overall digestive health. For plant-based proteins that help with digestion try:
- Hemp seeds
- Spirulina (algae)
- Mung beans
- Chia seeds
- Nut butter
The most common digestible proteins also happen to be some of the most popular food allergens.
Peas and brown rice have been gaining popularity as the protein powder to replace soy. While soy has a high PDCAAS score, it has been losing favor. The truth remains soy, like hemp, is a complete source of protein unlike peas and brown rice.
Hemp protein is a complete plant-based protein that is easy to digest. In fact, hemp protein is one of the only plant-based proteins that contain all nine essential amino acids and essential fatty acids.
You can get your hemp protein in different forms.
- Hemp protein powder is great for shakes and smoothies for bodybuilding
- Hemp bars make a quick morning or afternoon snack, full of all the nutrients you need in one place
- Hemp hearts are a great addition to salads or yogurt for texture, taste, and protein boost
Summary: The Most Digestible Protein
With so many different proteins to choose from you can see it’s difficult to say which is the easiest to digest. Choosing the easiest to digest between tempeh, chicken, or salmon will have to be left up to science. While there are scores in place to determine what the most digestible proteins are, you need to consider what’s the best protein for you.
If egg is the most digestible protein that’s great, unless you’re allergic to eggs. Some proteins are allergens and some aren’t complete. One thing that’s for sure, pairing your choice protein properly is one way to help with digestion.
Watching your acid intake, consuming high enzyme foods, and eating vitamin B6 will help you no matter which protein you choose. Whatever you decide you’ll need to get your protein from somewhere.