Just like people, Proteins can be complete or… incomplete.
Proteins that provide all nine essential amino acids are considered complete. (and high quality)
Incomplete proteins do not contain all nine essential amino acids, despite how good they are for us, how frequently we eat them, or how much we love them. They are all plant sources.
- Beans (dried beans, peas, and lentils)
- Grain products such as barley, wheat, millet, rye.
- Miscellaneous vegetables have small amounts of protein.
Protein should comprise 10-35% of your total calorie needs.
To give you an idea of the amount of protein you can find in certain foods, check out the following list:
- 1 cup milk = 8 grams
- 28 grams cheese = 7 grams (However not all cheeses are equal)
- 28 grams meat = 7 grams
- 1 egg= 6 grams
- 1⁄2 cup legumes= 7 grams
- 2 tablespoons peanut paste= 8 grams
- 1⁄4 cup nuts= 6 grams
- 1⁄2 cup cooked non-starchy vegetable= 2 grams
- 1 serving of grain (1 slice bread, 1⁄2 bun, 1 cup dry cereal) = 3 grams
Is it possible to still get complete proteins without eating animal products? Yes, luckily the essential amino acids present in one plant food can “connect” with the essential amino acids in another plant food to form a complete protein.
This is the principle of a healthy vegetarian or vegan diet. Your body can make its own complete proteins if you eat a variety of plant foods and eat enough calories throughout the day.