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Combining Food for Complete Protein

Nutrition Diva discusses combining grains to provide a complete protein.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
December 4, 2011

Q. I eat meat and fish regularly, but like to get a significant amount of my protein from non-animal sources. I've heard that beans do not have all of the amino acids and need to be combined with grains to provide a complete protein (as in the traditional beans-and-rice combo). Do I have to get the full range of amino acids at the same time?

A. Because you sometimes eat animal products, you're most likely getting all the complete protein you need. But even if you were a full-time vegan, you would not need to worry about combining complementary foods (such as beans and rice) in order to form "complete" protein sources. {C} The protein combining rules that many vegetarians followed in the 1970s have been retired because it turned out that they were unnecessary. Your body has a pool of amino acids and, while it is important to get all the essential amino acids, you don't need to get them all at the same meal. As long as you have a reasonably varied diet and your total calorie intake is adequate, you will be getting enough amino acids and protein to meet your needs.

Related Content:

Should You Be a Vegetarian?
How Much Protein Do You Need?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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