Many people might be wondering what a complete protein is, especially those on a vegetarian or vegan diet. A complete protein is a source of protein that contains all six amino acids that the body cannot produce properly. Most people can consume adequate amounts of protein without any problems. However, for vegetarians or vegans, complete protein plays an important role in their diet and health.
Method 1 of 2: Prepare complete proteins
Step 1. Consume adequate amounts of protein per day
In general, women need 46 g per day and men 56 g per day.
- Track your protein intake throughout the day. You can use a diary or an app on your phone to find out how much extra protein you need during your days.
- Some people may need more protein than others. If you exercise moderately or intensively for more than 45 minutes a day or are trying to lose weight, the total amount of protein you need to eat may be higher.
Step 2. Combine the right types of food
The combination of certain vegetable proteins will give you a complete protein. Try to consume a variety of whole grains, nuts, and legumes, these foods will provide you with the essential amino acids your body needs to produce complete protein.
- Combine legumes and whole grains for complete protein. Here are a few examples: rice, beans, lentils, barley, bulgur, peanut butter and integral bread.
- Combine legumes with nuts and seeds for complete protein.
Step 3. Eat whole grains
Whole grains are an essential component in the preparation of complete proteins. Include a variety of whole grains in your weekly meals to make sure you're eating a balanced diet. Consuming whole grains increases your chances of getting complete protein in your diet.
- Whole grains are unprocessed and contain all parts of the seed, germ, endosperm and bran. They generally contain more nutrients like fiber and protein compared to processed grains like white flour and white rice.
- Here are some examples of whole grains: oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, bulgur, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and brown rice.
Step 4. Eat a variety of nuts and legumes
Legumes and nuts are another essential food group for getting complete protein. Once again, you need to vary the foods belonging to this group that you eat during the week.
- Here are some examples of legumes: beans, lentils, peanuts and peas. Here are some examples of nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, cashews, squash seeds, sesame seeds, pistachios and pecans.
- Nuts are also a great source of healthy fats. It is important to take this into account especially if you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet and if you have limited intakes of healthy fats.
Step 5. Include plant proteins which are complete proteins
There are several plant proteins that are already considered complete proteins. Soybeans, quinoa, hemp seeds, and buckwheat are great sources of complete protein.
- Keep cooked quinoa or buckwheat in the fridge or freezer to accompany your main cereal dishes.
- Hemp seeds can be added to smoothies, sprinkled on salads, or added to your morning yogurt. It is also a great source of healthy fats.
Step 6. Consume a variety of legumes and grains throughout your day
It was previously thought that you had to consume a whole grain and a legume with every meal to reap the benefits of a whole protein. Studies have now shown that as long as you consume these two foods during the day, you will be able to get the amino acids you need.
- Food diaries, apps, and meal plans can help you see how to include a variety of plant proteins in your meals throughout the day. Track what you eat to make sure you include a wide variety of proteins.
- Legumes are a cornerstone of the vegetarian or vegan diet because of the lack of animal protein intake.
Step 7. Design a meal plan
A well-thought-out meal plan will help ensure that you are consuming healthy, protein-rich meals every day. When your food choices are limited, you need to take extra care to get enough nutrients. This is all the more important if you are busy and don't have time to think about each source of protein during the day.
- Take an hour or two in your spare time to develop a weekly meal plan. Make sure you factor in complete protein and include a wide variety of plant proteins every day.
- List your groceries by following your meal plan so you have a ready one and only buy what you need at the store.
Method 2 of 2: Incorporate Other Sources of Protein
Step 1. Include dairy products and eggs
Dairy products and eggs are both considered complete proteins. If you are a vegetarian and consume these kinds of animal products, this is an easy way to add healthy whole protein to your diet and significantly improve your overall protein intake.
- Eat a variety of dairy products like cheese, yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, they all contain a lot of protein. In addition, they also contain other useful nutrients like calcium and potassium.
- Eggs are a great source of complete protein, and they also contain healthy fats and minerals that are essential in your diet. Try eggs for breakfast and keep some hard-boiled eggs on hand for your snack.
Step 2. Cook with soy products
Tofu, tempeh, and even seitan are considered complete proteins. They're slightly less processed than other meat substitutes, but they're still a satisfying, high-protein option.
- Tofu, tempeh, and seitan can be a little intimidating to prepare. Research recipes or tips on the Internet or in cookbooks to learn how to prepare these unique ingredients.
- Try many recipes that use tofu or tempeh. You might not like it at first, but after trying to prepare it in different ways, you might find new ways to enjoy it.
Step 3. Buy small amounts of meat substitutes
Many brands sell meat substitutes made from textured vegetable protein. This could be hotdogs, cold cuts, cheese, ground beef, chicken nuggets, or even bacon.
- Try several meat alternatives. There are a wide variety of brands and their products are quick and easy substitutes for meat.
- Remember that these foods are usually highly processed to look and taste like meat. If you are trying to avoid processed foods or want to stick to a whole food diet, you might be better off reducing these types of foods in your diet.
Step 4. Try to eat protein supplements
Not everyone has time for a full meal with an adequate amount of protein. Protein supplements can come in the form of bars or shakes and add the right amount of protein to your diet (especially if you're in a rush).
- Choose a dietary supplement that contains an adequate amount of protein. Most bars should contain at least 10g of protein while most shakes should contain between 15-20g.
- There are hundreds of brands of protein dietary supplements. Buy samples or small quantities to try them out before buying larger quantities.
- Make sure you find a dietary supplement that fits your general diet plan. If you're trying to lose or maintain weight, you might try finding a low-calorie supplement.
Step 5. Eat meat products from time to time
If you are not following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you might also consider adding meat products like poultry, red meat, fish, seafood, or pork to your diet.
- Meat is an excellent source of protein. It contains large amounts of protein which is still 100% complete protein.
- In addition, meat also contains high amounts of iron, B vitamins and other nutrients essential for a healthy diet.
Step 6. Buy Resources for Complete Proteins
Buy a book from a bookstore or search the Internet to learn more about proteins and amino acids. This will prepare you to understand how to choose these different foods to include in your diet.
- A complete protein contains all nine essential amino acids i.e. histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. The body cannot make them, which is why you need to find them in your diet.
- Learn about the different food combinations that will provide you with all of the essential amino acids per day.
- Consider buying cookbooks or following blogs to find recipes designed to provide you with complete protein.
Step 7. Chat with vegetarian or vegan friends or family
Often, people who have been on a vegetarian or vegan diet for a long time are familiar with complete protein and can give you good advice.
- Ask them for recipes to include complete protein.
- Discuss what problems you are having, what you might not understand, and ask them for advice.
- Protein is an essential nutrient for your diet and your health. Try to consume a minimum of it every day and don't worry if you don't get it all the time.
- It can be difficult to understand amino acids and complete proteins. Try to focus on the types of foods you need to eat on a regular basis instead of focusing on the chemistry and science involved.
- Consider adding dietary supplements if you have a hard time preparing recipes or meals that contain enough protein. Mix protein powder with milk, water, juice, coffee, or other liquids to create protein milkshakes or smoothies.
- If you're struggling to get enough protein while following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you should consider adding a source of dairy or eggs.