Complete Proteins

I attended a talk today where we discussed the challenge of eating complete proteins, especially if you are vegetarian. A complete protein contains all the twenty-two amino acids required for your body to function. The body produces thirteen of these and requires the balance nine from your food. Eating foods that contain complete proteins is therefore important for you.

People who don’t mind eating non-vegetarian foods have a wider array of choices from meat and fish that contain complete proteins. If you are vegetarian, you need to worry about the amount of dairy that you are consuming since that is an important source of complete proteins especially yogurt and whey. However, many plant sources also are good sources of proteins including quinoa, hemp seeds, chia seeds, spirulina and buckwheat. Another interesting way for vegetarians to eat complete proteins is to mix foods such as hummus and whole wheat bread or rice and beans. The foods don’t even need to be mixed at the same time and can be eating anytime during the day. This is the reason Indians cook khidchi which is a combination of rice and pulses cooked with vegetables and turmeric. It is among the most satvik foods out there and contains complete proteins. Doctors recommend khidchi as an excellent way to lose weight and is recommended to be eaten even for those who are diabetic.

Nuts and seeds, legumes are other sources of protein but do not contain complete proteins by themselves and need to be mixed with other foods to create twenty-two amino acids. Therefore it is not uncommon to hear the argument that if you need to build strength, you need to be non-vegetarian. I will leave the debate of whether an athlete competing for the Olympics needs to be vegetarian for another day but if you are a regular Joe, chances are you are perfectly find relying on vegetarian foods for protein as long as you know what you are doing and what you are eating. There is no need to supplement your food or that of your child unless they are engaged in some form of intensive strength training because your body does not need more than 0.4 gms of protein per pound under normal circumstances. A bowl of greek yogurt contains up to 24 gms of protein which can easily meet the needs of most children especially if mixed with some grains.

Please read this to understand the quality of protein sources in case you are interested.


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.