You probably picture yourself chugging a glass of whey protein or sipping on a smoothie packed with protein powder when you think of protein. Protein is the essential nutrient that our body needs to stay healthy and build muscle mass.
However, it can be challenging to get enough protein from natural sources. That's why many people turn to supplements for a quick fix. It is easy to assume that all proteins are derived from animals—milk or eggs—all proteins are also denatured.
However, there is a difference between non-denatured protein and denatured protein. Understanding these two types of protein will help you make healthier choices when choosing your dietary supplements.
What does denatured mean?
A denatured protein has been chemically altered. This process may be done by nature or man, but in either case, the protein is no longer in its natural state.
A denatured protein is not harmful to consume. It doesn't have all the same health benefits as a non-denatured protein.
For example, whey protein that has undergone denaturing is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that can help you build muscle. But if the BCAAs have been denatured by heat or the acid in your stomach, your body can't use them to build muscle.
Why is protein denatured?
Protein is denatured when treated with a chemical or subjected to high temperatures to make it easier to digest. You've denatured their protein if you cook your eggs or steak well.
Denaturing protein is a common practice in the food industry. It is done for several reasons, including cost-effectiveness, ease of harvesting, and the aging of foods.
For example, to get an egg from a chicken, farmers may treat the eggs with a chemical solution to increase the number of eggs they get. This process denatures the protein in the egg—but it also gives us liquid egg whites in cartons and runny yolks in jars!
Non-denatured protein has not been chemically altered or subjected to heat that would change its natural form. It is, therefore, more biologically active, with all its essential amino acids intact.
Remember, not all proteins are created equal. And there are significant differences between the quality of animal-derived proteins found in non-denatured versus denatured sources.
For example, whey protein is rich in essential amino acids, which is why it's a popular supplement. However, whey protein that has been heated or processed to make it easier to digest is denatured.
It means that it has been altered from its natural state. Moreover, it has been processed to remove all the beneficial fats and fatty acids from the whey.
How is a non-denatured protein made?
Non-denatured proteins are made by applying minimal heat and no acid-based denaturing treatments. Instead, they are gently processed, allowing the protein to retain its natural structure.
Non-denatured proteins are typically derived from organic sources, including plants, dairy, and meat. While non-denatured protein is not suitable for patients with an allergy to eggs, lactose, or other familiar denatured protein sources, they are an excellent option for vegetarians and vegans.
Which foods are non-denatured?
Many foods in a non-denatured protein diet are naturally rich in protein. For example, legumes, fermented foods, beans, nuts, seeds, and seaweed are excellent sources of non-denatured proteins.
Fermented foods, such as yogurt and kefir, are beneficial for those with a weak digestive system, such as those with irritable bowel syndrome. That's because the fermentation process helps break down the food's proteins.
Getting enough protein in your diet is essential for good health. While it's easy to assume that all types of protein are the same, this couldn't be further from the truth. These two types of protein come from entirely different sources.
One is a liquid extracted from milk, and the other is a solid extracted from eggs. One is denatured, and the other is not. There are significant differences between the two in quality, price, and digestibility.
Non-denatured protein is preferred for those sensitive to heat and acid-denaturing treatments. When shopping for protein supplements, it is helpful to understand the difference between denatured and non-denatured proteins. It will help you make healthier, more informed choices when selecting your dietary supplements.