What Is a Complete Protein?

Nutrition Diva puts your mind at ease regarding complete and incomplete proteins.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
July 26, 2013

proteinProtein foods are not all created equal. Some foods are said to provide "complete" protein, while others are said to be "incomplete." The difference is in which amino acids are present.  When a food contains all the essential amino acids, it's said to be complete. Most animal proteins are in this category. Vegetable sources of protein, such as beans or grains, are often missing one or more of the essential amino acids, which is why they are characterized as incomplete.

Despite what you may have heard, vegetarians need not be overly concerned about protein or protein quality. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group (a resource I highly recommend), as long as you are getting enough calories to maintain a healthy weight, you should be getting sufficient protein. And as long as all of the essential aminos are present in your diet, you don't need to worry about combining foods to ensure complete protein at each meal. 

Protein image courtesy of Shutterstock

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