Kitchen Tips: What are Complete Proteins?

As someone who eats a largely vegetarian diet, there are a few nutritional concerns it’s important to be aware of. One of these is the topic of complete proteins. I’ve never really liked the term because it’s not used to describe an actual protein (or collection of proteins). A complete protein is a source of protein that contains an adequate amount of the essential amino acids for our dietary needs. Essential amino acids are ones our body can’t create on its own, and there are generally eight or nine of them, depending on who you ask. You need these things for your health so it’s important to eat a diet that supplies them for you.

For omnivores out there, this really isn’t a problem. Just about all animal proteins are considered complete proteins (meat, fish, poultry, milk, cheese, eggs). If you’re a vegetarian, however, then you may not be be getting all you need from your daily milk, cheese and egg intake (I know I’m not). Most beans, grains and nuts are not complete proteins. Fortunately, you take just about any from one category and combine it with another and you’ve got a complete protein. Bean soup with rice, chili with corn bread…. voila! Whole protein.

So, if you’re a meat eater, rest easy knowing you’re probably doing ok. If you’re more of a vegetarian like me, then just think about how you’re eating from these three categories.

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2 Responses to “Kitchen Tips: What are Complete Proteins?”

  1. Lion's Deal says:

    I’ve read that soy is one source of complete protein. Does that mean soy sauce count as source of complete protein? Kindly advise.

  2. Chef Edwin says:

    Good question. While soy sauce contains all the essential amino acids, it does not have an “adequate” amount. So technically, no, soy sauce is not a complete protein.