So what is the ideal source of protein?

According to “Are humans meat eaters or vegetarians by nature?”
Cecil says, “I won’t claim meat is the ideal source of protein, but on the whole it’s better than plants”.

So what is the ideal source of protein?

Eggs, whey, something else?
Please inform. Thanks!

In terms of protein per calorie, the best is wild caught salmon, followed by low fat mozzarella, and then the various poultry meats. But “ideal” can quite a few different definitions. AIUI, the lowest carbon footprint source is lentils grown near where you live.

Breast milk, duh.

Because proteins are just different bunchings of amino acids, and there are essential ones you need to eat because your body cannot make them, it is prudent to eat proteins from many different sources. If you’re diet permits it, I would suggest lots of fish, some chicken, some beef, some egg, some dairy, some beans, possibly powder if your needs are very high. There is no one ideal source. Just like antioxidants are common and you don’t need to pay much extra for something like açai.

There’s also no one ideal source because different people do well on different diets.

Milk’s a terrible protein source for somebody who’s lactose intolerant, and peanuts are a terrible protein source for anyone allergic to peanuts. And so on.

The people who push the notion that plant-sourced proteins are superior often ignore that plants naturally contain toxins to discourage animals from eating them, from insects to cows.

On the other hand, lentils won’t attempt to gore you with a horn when you try to harvest their protein.

There isn’t an single ideal source of protein for humans, there are a myriad of sources of protein.

To me, “ideal” means that it has to be cheaply and readily available. I really don’t want to book a cabin in the state of Washington to go salmon fishing, and it has gotten increasingly expensive in stores. There are many people who can’t afford decent meat as a steady form of protein. Hell, the top rate filet I bought from Mariano’s a couple of weeks ago was a whopping $26 a pound. Too many eggs can spell cholesterol doom.

My vote is beans. They can be grown in most areas, there is a large variety of them, and they can be had relatively cheaply. They are “dry goods”, so they can be stored for an extended period of time in dry, low humidity conditions.

If you pick just one source, you just get those groupings of amino acids. Hopefully it includes all the essential ones - this isn’t a given. But since specific ones and types have other benefits it makes sense to use several sources.

I recall some discussion of protein digestibility that was normalized against whey protein, which was highest.

Hmm maybe it was protein “quality”. Regardless, I thought I’d posted about it here at some point, but my searches are coming up dry.

We’re using a lot of different definitions of ‘ideal’, which is good, options are important. I think the two people look at the most are quality (where we have the maximum possible nutrients) and cost per calorie. We’ve also seen that they two tend to be wildly divergent, and even some of the best are subject to limitation of use by scarcity/cost. If we go with conventional thinking, then some form of bean/legume is probably the best compromise, as it could be provided world-wide with high bang for buck.
But, and I say this not to be gross, but for future thought - should we consider cannibalism? Now yes, I agree that right now religious, cultural, social and moral (to the extent that those are different) realities would prevent any such discussion, but we should consider it.
Human protein is pretty much by definition, as biologically suited to us as any animal based meat source. Most of our sources are self-supporting, and we already have the issue with long term storage of human remains - whether we soak them in toxic chemicals and stick them in what would otherwise productive landscape, or create additional carbon waste by burning them.
If it could be handled ethically (and that’s a huge IF) perhaps as we do with organ donors, and the practical considerations were evaluated without the social cost (an almost impossible assumption), I think this would be the most ‘ideal’ source of protein for the world population, and would allow a substantial decrease in farmed domestic animals in the long run. Do I think it will happen? Well, I’ve watched Soylent Green more times than would be healthy, and it looks more predictive than not in the last few decades…

The problem with cannibalism is that it involves eating an apex predator, and a long live apex predator at that. What the means is toxic contaminants are likely to concentrate in the flesh of said animal, much like apex predator fish like tuna tend to be the most contaminated with things like heavy metal.

Then there are prion diseases, such as kuru, which was explicitly spread by people eating other people.

Yes, in some ways human flesh is the most “suitable” protein we could get, but between problems of contamination and problems of disease maybe not such a good thing in the end.

You’re going to have to eat something with those beans, as they’re an incomplete source of protein. Non-ideal by definition.

There is a way to quantify amino acid makeup and digestibility:

It’s one metric of protein quality, and helpful vegetarians. It does not take into negative effects such as pesticides, toxins, lactose, etc.

While I admit that I don’t think we are likely to ever go this route despite me being willing to mention it, these two points aren’t the ones I am concerned with. First, humans aren’t traditional apex predators. Bio-accumulation from purchased and processed foods can be an issue, such as concerns about farmed Tilapia from China, or mercury accumulation from other seafood, but that is probably a minimal issue for your average joe world-wide. And no, I refuse to get Swiftian to eliminate that issue, although if we use other ideas in the thread to improve ideal protein for humans, we’d be much less at risk for bio-accumulation anyway.
As for Kuru and similar prion based issues, I’m not saying we should grind out dead in vats willy-nilly. I’m saying that if we did this (and I’m about 80% serious, and 20% tongue in cheek), we would need to do it ethically and safely. Much like ethically sourced animal proteins, you would check the health of the donor, and use appropriate sections [ yes the neural/spinal areas and digestive/eliminative sections are a risk]. I’m not about to go all Matrix and suggest we liquify the dead to feed the living, even if it didn’t laughably fly in the face of thermodynamics.

According to Reply’s Wiki cite, the most complete proteins in terms of amino acid sufficiency are cow’s milk, eggs, casein, soy protein, silkworm pupae, and whey. Three of those come from cows, and I don’t think silkworm pupae is a sustainable option.

Silkworm pupae deserve their own thread.

Thread! Get it? Ha, I crack me up.