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What's a Complete Protein?

healthy tips living well Jan 26, 2019
Protein is one of three macro-nutrients necessary to our body. It is vital for providing nitrogen and amino acids which is used to provide the “fundamental components of all living cells” including enzymes, hormones, and antibodies. All of which are necessary for our bodies and any other organism to function. There are a total of 20 amino acids we need, 9 of which are essential and only attained through the food we eat. Complete proteins are made up of all nine essential amino acids. Complete proteins can be found in animal food sources such as meat, fish, poultry, and dairy. If one is a strict vegan finding these complete sources is possible, especially when using food combinations such as corn and beans.

Legumes, beans, nuts, and grains make up incomplete proteins which can be combined to build complete proteins. It is extremely common for new vegans to combine grains with nuts, seeds or beans; or beans with nuts and seeds. Given the vast range of food sources available, this makes for an easy choice in food combinations. Another piece of the health puzzle to consider is how our bodies metabolize proteins. When combining proteins with carbohydrates such as grains, our bodies slow metabolism which leaves us feeling fuller longer. Individuals suffering from a slow metabolism can benefit greatly from this food combination, as the slower digestion process acts as an appetite suppressant. Some complete protein options include:

  • Whole grain bread with 2 tbsp. peanut butter

  • Yogurt with walnuts

  • Tofu with tahini (sesame seed paste)

  • Brown rice with almonds, cashews or pecans

  • Avocado, sprouts and almond butter on whole wheat bread

There are many other combinations available for vegetarians, vegans, and carnivores to ensure individuals receive the essential proteins necessary for our bodies to function as the well-oiled machines they are. It is not mandatory to eat meat or animal products to consume complete proteins. Adventurous types will experiment with this and find a great deal more combinations available in our world today.

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