You may have read in some places that only animal-based foods provide complete proteins. That is just not true. There are, in fact, several plant-based sources of complete protein. Here’s a list of the top 5 of those which are also commonly available.
Bur first, a bit of the basics!
So, What Is A Complete Protein?
When we say “complete protein,” we are actually referring to certain compounds called amino acids. When we eat a protein, it gets broken down into amino acids, which enable the body to build muscle.
There are 20 or so amino acids, but only nine are considered essential. Incidentally, these nine essential amino acids are also those that our body cannot produce and must be obtained from our diet. (Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19301095/)
Clearly, any protein that can provide all the nine essential amino acids will be considered complete. Many vegan foods individually, and in combinations, provide all the nine essential amino acids and qualify as complete proteins.
Let us see some of them.
Quinoa is perhaps the healthiest grain on the planet. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 8 grams of complete protein. In addition, it is a rich source of dietary fiber, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, folate, and thiamine, and is naturally gluten-free.
Quinoa can be cooked similar to rice, using two parts of water to one part of dry quinoa seeds.
Soy is a complete protein, and soy-based products, such as tofu and tempeh, can easily be included in a vegan diet. Firm tofu contains more protein compared to other varieties.
Also, homemade tempeh is better because it is made using whole beans. In contrast, the commercially available tempeh may be highly processed or made using okara, which will not be a high-quality protein.
If you can’t buy homemade tempeh or make it yourself, better stick to tofu.
3. Chia Seeds
These tiny seeds qualify to be called a superfood for various reasons, and being a complete protein is one such reason. Apart from being a rich source of protein, chia seeds provide dietary fiber, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and omega-3 fats.
The consumption of chia seeds in our diet may help in managing weight, increase good cholesterol, and reduce bad cholesterol.
4. Rice and Beans
This combination is popular for being a tasty and wholesome meal. But it also deserves to be in our regular meal plan because the amino acids missing in rice are found in beans and those missing in beans are present in rice.
Hence, the combination of the two provides complete protein. This is an unbeatable combination for someone taking a plant-based diet. Read more about Rice and Beans combo here.
5. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is a useful supplement for those on a 100% vegan diet because it is a source of vitamin B12, which usually goes missing in plant-based food. Additionally, nutritional yeast contains all nine essential amino acids.
Although it is easier and better to obtain proteins from regular food, nutritional yeast is perfect as a general supplement to a vegan diet.
Many other plant-based foods provide essential amino acids, and when consumed as part of a balanced diet, may help in meeting the overall protein requirement of an individual.
Dieticians and researchers have pointed out that each meal doesn’t have to provide all the essential amino acids. Instead, one should aim to fulfill the overall protein requirement within a 24-hour period.
Anyway, it is a good idea to have variety in our food. But if you are on a 100% vegan diet, it will sure help to be a little extra careful.
Thank you for reading. Please take good care of your health.