Both plant and animal products contain protein. While animal products have complete proteins, many plant based proteins are incomplete. What does that mean? There are at least 20 amino acids, although that number is now in question. The body can make all but nine, which are considered essential amino acids that have to come from the food we eat. Not all plant sources have adequate amounts of each and some have certain essential amino acids missing entirely, so they’re incomplete. In order to have a complete protein, you have to eat foods with complementary proteins that total up to a complete protein.
If you’re eating quinoa, soy or buckwheat, you don’t have to mix and match proteins.
They have complete proteins, but few other plant sources do. That means you fill in the gaps to ensure you get all the essential amino acids. You can do it at one meal, by eating beans and rice, for instance, or eat complementary proteins throughout the day, like having a rice dish at noon and a bean dish at supper.
There are some natural combinations of protein that are delicious.
Beans and rice are one option, but there are many more combinations you can use. A peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread is another option. Tofu with rice, hummus on pita bread and noodle stir-fry with peanut or sesame seed sauce are other natural options. Of course, you can also combine animal protein with the plant protein options, like yogurt and nuts or whole grain cereal and milk.
You don’t have to worry if you’re eating animal products.
Toss in a hard-boiled egg or two, a chicken breast, yogurt or a grilled cheese sandwich and you’ll be alright, but if you’re a vegan, the balancing act gets harder. Some dependable forms of protein come from soy products. Whether you consume edamame, tofu, tempeh or soy milk, it’s a good source of protein. Another good source is quinoa, which you can use instead of rice to provide complete protein for the day.
- While it’s harder to get adequate protein from vegetables alone, they offer other benefits most animal products can’t, like certain vitamins and minerals, plus are a good source of fiber.
- A delicious snack is also a good source of complete protein. Hummus and whole grain chips for dipping are complementary. Hummus is made from chickpeas, which has 7.25 grams of protein per cup.
- If you want bread that’s higher in protein and loaded with all sorts of nutritional goodness, try Ezekiel bread. Slather on some peanut butter and top with a few slices of banana for sweetness and you have a lunch that’s a complete protein.
- There are two essential amino acids that most vegetables lack and those are lysine and methionine. Good sources for both include spirulina, sweet peppers, soy, chives and potatoes.
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