WHAT IS A COMPLETE PROTEIN?
There are 20 different amino acids that join together to make all types of protein. Some of these amino acids can't be made by our bodies, so these are known as essential amino acids. It's essential that our diet provides these.
A complete protein source is one that provides all of the essential amino acids in the recommended amounts.
Animal-based foods, for example, meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs and cheese, are considered complete protein sources.
Soy is a complete protein but many other plant-based protein sources like peas, lentils, and grains have some, but not all, of the essential amino acids and need to combine with other foods to provide all of the essential amino acids in the recommended amounts to be considered a complete protein.
HOW TO TELL HOW MUCH COMPLETE PROTEIN A FOOD PROVIDES
On a food label, there are two ways to see how much protein you are getting:
Grams of Protein:
This tells you how many grams of protein are in the food and is required on labels. It doesn’t tell you whether the protein in the food contains all of the essential amino acids to be considered a complete source.
% Daily Value:
The % daily value is based on the amino acid content and reflects the amount of complete protein in the product. The % daily value allows you to better understand the quality of the protein in the food. If a product has 10% of the daily value, it is considered a good source of protein. If a product has 20% of the daily value, it is considered an excellent source of protein.
Listing the %DV on the nutrition label is only required when protein is mentioned somewhere else on the package, so you may not see it on every label.