Complete Protein Combinations for a Healthy Vegetarian Diet


Vegetarian Made Easy

Protein Sources

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.

    GRAINS
    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.

    LEGUMES
    [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 seeds, etc.

    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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    Mimi Avishai









    I'm Mimi (that's me on the Nile River!) and this is my recipe collection. I love to be creative, love to cook and love to entertain. I'm also veggie which means that all of the above gets a bit more complicated – and a lot more fun!

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