What are proteins?
Proteins are the building blocks of the body, needed to construct virtually all parts of the body such as cells, tissue, organs, fluids, enzymes and hormones. A protein is made up of individual amino acids, most of which can be synthesised within the body. However, there are 9 amino acids which cannot be made within the body and hence must be ingested from food. These are called essential amino acids.
Where do we get proteins?
Animal foods such as meat, eggs, poultry, dairy and fish are rich in protein, containing all the essential amino acids and hence are called complete proteins.
Non-animal sources of protein include beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains, and to a lesser degree vegetables. These plant based proteins do not contain all of the essential amino acids and hence are called incomplete proteins. People whom are vegetarian or who consume primarily a plant-based diet are advised to eat a combination of the incomplete proteins, to ensure they obtain all of the essential amino acids.
What combinations should I eat?
Combining plant proteins to obtain all the essential amino acids is quite simple. As each group of plant proteins are generally low in a particular amino acid/s, the aim is to combine proteins from different groups. Ideally, plan to eat these different groups within a few hours of each other. Often you will find that it is natural to eat these groups at the same meal, as a lot of traditional cultures from around the world have done for thousands of generations e.g chickpeas with rice, beans and tortilla.
To make a complete protein you need to combine the following foods:
GRAINS WITH EITHER NUTS/SEEDS … OR LEGUMES … OR DAIRY.
NUTS OR SEEDS WITH EITHER GRAINS …. OR LEGUMES … OR DAIRY
DAIRY WITH EITHER GRAINS … OR LEGUMES … OR NUTS/SEEDS
LEGUMES WITH EITHER DAIRY … OR NUTS/SEEDS … OR GRAINS
Some Example Menus
GRAINS WITH DAIRY – Porridge (grains) with milk (dairy) OR muesli (grains) with yogurt (milk)
LEGUMES WITH NUTS OR SEEDS – Hummus (chickpeas which are legumes and tahini, which is sesame seed)
LEGUMES WITH GRAINS – Dahl (legume) with Rice (grain)
NUTS OR SEEDS WITH DAIRY – Yogurt (dairy) topped with sunflower seeds (seeds)
Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to combine these vegetarian foods to form a complete protein.
Some other examples of vegetarian whole protein are:
Quinoa: A great replacement for rice, Quinoa is packed with complete protein and high in Fibre, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Manganese. It also has good levels of Iron, Zinc, Folate and B Vitamins.
Avocado: Although not really high in Protein, avocado still does contain whole protein and is packed with plenty of fibre and essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C and K, Folate and Potassium amongst many others. Try my avocado chocolate mousse for a delicious and healthy dessert.
Chia seeds: Great in a Chia Seed Pudding, chia seeds are another easy way to get whole protein into your diet. They are also high in fibre, Calcium, Phosphorus, Manganese and Omega 3.
By Andrea Southern, Naturopath, Nutritionist, Herbalist at Stafford and The Gap in Brisbane. For an appointment phone 0412 791 705