Incomplete Proteins - The essential difference
The best way to begin this discussion, is to tell you that proteins are organic compounds made up of building blocks called “amino acids.” There are about 20 common amino acids. Nine of them are considered “essential” because the body cannot make them, and therefore, they must be supplied by your diet.
This information is important to you only because, if you do not get enough of these essential amino acids, you may suffer the ill effects of protein deficiency.
All or some
Foods that contain all of the essential amino acids are not incomplete proteins, but are called “complete proteins.” These protein foods are generally animal foods. Plant foods do not, as a rule, have complete proteins, but by eating combinations of plant foods, called “complementary proteins,” you can obtain a complete protein.
For example, when you eat Lentil Rice Tomato Soup, you are eating a complete protein. The lentils and rice complement each other, because each has some of the essential amino acids and together, they provide all of the essential amino acids. It is generally believed by nutritionists that it is not necessary to eat these complementary proteins at the same meal.
Most Mexican dishes that contain beans and rice are also examples of completing your protein through complementary choices.
Here is a list of complementary proteins, that is, proteins that when combined become complete.
Beans/Peas/Lentils ... with Nuts
Vegetarians and vegans need to pay attention to the concept of complementary proteins. By including a variety of proteins from different sources, they can insure that they are getting adequate amounts of the essential amino acids that the body needs.
Since most foods have some protein and many foods have significant protein, if you are eating three healthy meals a day, you are most likely getting enough protein. However, if you live in a developing country, protein deficiency may be a serious concern. Many in poor countries struggle to meet the minimum requirements for protein in the diet.