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What Role Do Complete Proteins Play In A Plant Based Diet?

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

There are two types of proteins: Incomplete proteins and complete proteins. Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, which the human body cannot produce on our own so we must get from our diets. The nine essential amino acids are as listed: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine,  methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.

Incomplete proteins do not contain all of the essential amino acids or don’t have enough quantities of one or more of the essential amino acids to meet the human body’s needs. However, this doesn’t mean that incomplete proteins cannot play an important role in your diet. Recent studies have shown that you don’t need a complete protein at every meal in order to absorb the protein. For example, if you have beans at lunch and brown rice at dinner you would get everything you needed as long as they were both consumed In the same day. The combining of plant-based foods is what we call “complimentary proteins.”

Choosing to follow a vegetarian or plant-based diet has been proven to be good for your health for a multitude of reasons, but in today’s world it can be hard. The society in the US and many parts of the world is not set up to cater to a vegan or vegetarian diet. Often times when going to a restaurant you may notice there are limited options for plant-based meals/proteins. Knowing your combinations and plant-based proteins will be helpful especially in these situations. (below is an example chart, not all proteins are Included.)


Black Beans Walnuts Whole Wheat, Seitan

Pinto Beans Flax Seeds Brown Rice

Chickpeas Almonds Rye

Lentils Pumpkin Seeds Oats

Edamame Cashews Barley

Plant Based Complete Proteins


Chia Seeds


Soy ( tofu, Tempeh)

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