Complete protein combinations are a great meatless solution if you are a vegetarian or just looking to lower your meat intake. Meats provide the essential amino acids your body needs to meet protein needs. To get these same amino acids from other food sources, you need to eat from different food groups to achieve the same result. Eating the right mix of seeds, beans, grains, peas and dairy products will give you complete proteins.
While eating beef and chicken is an easy protein solution, these foods are sometimes better avoided in large quantities because of their high fat and cholesterol content. Legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, dairy products and eggs are the foods that you will want to mix and match to meet your protein needs. By combining these foods, you will get the eight essential amino acids that are present in meat food sources. These vegetarian food sources also provide numerous vitamins, minerals and sufficient fiber.
1. Grains and Dairy
Grains include rice, oats, barley, wheat, cornmeal, rye, millet and spelt among many options. When choosing from this group, you will want to avoid refined varieties. Whole grains offer greater nutrition. People often combine grains with dairy. Examples of this may be whole grain bread with your favorite cheese or flavored yogurt with a granola topping.
2. Legumes and Grains
Legumes include foods such as peas, beans and lentils. Your choices are plentiful. Garbanzo beans, lentils, split pea, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, black eyed peas and navy beans are just some of the options in the legumes group. To get complete proteins, you can combine legumes with grains. Examples include black beans and brown rice or a burrito with pinto beans and a flour tortilla.
3. Seeds or Nuts and Legumes
Seeds and nuts are full of nutrition. Seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower or sesame are great options. Examples of nuts include walnuts, almonds and cashews. Nutrition researchers have found that people who eat nuts regularly are less prone to heart attacks and other heart-related issues. You can combine seeds or nuts with legumes by making a mixed green salad with garbanzo beans and pumpkin seeds and/or walnuts.
4. Dairy and Legumes
Dairy products and eggs are considered healthy protein options if you eat them in moderation. Cottage cheese, for example, will give you 14 grams of protein. One egg gives you about 6 grams of protein. You can combine eggs and dairy products with foods containing lower amounts of protein, or eat small amounts of dairy with legumes. One example is a bean salad with yogurt dressing.
Popular thinking dictates that these food groups need to be combined all in one meal to deliver a complete protein. While combining these foods guarantees complete protein, research shows that if you consume foods from these groups throughout the day, your body will get adequate protein. This is especially good news if you have difficulty digesting certain food combinations. Variety is the key. Just be sure to pick from the numerous groups on a daily basis.