Complete Protein Combinations for a Healthy Vegetarian Diet
Vegetarian Made Easy
What is so important about "complete protein"?
Vegetables and grains contain the very same eight amino acids as animal foods do, only in differing amounts. As long as you are getting enough calories from a healthy diet, plant foods can give you all the amino acids you need, by themselves or in combination with one another.
If you are in the early stages of becoming vegetarian, or just trying to cut back on meat, the important things to remember in order to maintain a healthy vegetarian diet are:
learn to combine and complete proteins
avoid empty, fatty calories.
Sometimes it can be hard work to be vegetarian - every meal has to be balanced and well thought-out. That's where your creativity comes into the picture - experiment with flavours, seasonings and textures - it can be a fun and rewarding journey!
Below is a list of some foods that contain all the essential amino acids, meaning they are "Complete Protein Combinations". Use this as a guide for meal planning.
Brown rice, oats (cereals - oatmeal, granola, etc.) millet, corn, barley, bulgur, wheat (including whole wheat bread, pastas, cereals, flour, etc.).
I'll include Quinoa in this section, although technically it is not a grain. Unlike wheat or rice, quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest.
[pronounced le-gyume] Green peas, lentils, chickpeas, alfalfa sprouts, mung beans, and beans of all kinds (kidney, lima, aduki, navy beans, soy beans and products made from them; e.g., tofu, textured vegetable protein, tempeh, soy milks), peanuts, etc.
GREENS - Broccoli, collards, spinach, etc.
NUTS AND SEEDS
Almonds, cashews, walnuts, filberts, pistachios, pecans, macadamias and nut butters made from these. Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds (including tahini butter made from ground sesame seeds), pumpkin
Combining protein rich foods increases the protein absorption by about 30%, and so it is important to combine grains, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds and greens in a vegetarian diet.
Below are some classic vegetarian high protein combinations, but of course, you can come up with many more options just by using a little creativity:
Corn and beans
Brown rice and beans
Oat bran and soy milk
Buckwheat and millet
Brown rice and green peas
Tofu or Tempeh on whole wheat bread
Whole grain bread and peanut butter
Yogurt with walnuts
Tofu with tahini (sesame seed paste)
Brown rice with almonds, cashews or pecans
Avocado, sprouts & almond butter on whole wheat bread
Chickpea hummus (made with sesame seed paste) on pita
Want more combination ideas? Check out some of my suggestions at Menu Ideas.
And for some really terrific ideas and great information, take a look at my buddy Aaron's terrific page on vegetarian protein sources on his site The Savory Vegetarian.
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