NutriPro More plants on Plate – Complementary proteins across cultures

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What’s a complete protein?

Some foods contain all of the essential amino acids you need in sufficient quantities. These are known as complete protein sources. Along with meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy, you can also get complete proteins from plants such as quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, soy, hemp, and chia seeds. Foods that don’t contain all nine essential amino-acids are known as incomplete protein sources. While they don’t offer enough essential amino acids on their own, they can be combined with a variety of other foods throughout the day to provide an adequate intake of quality proteins. Examples include nuts and seeds, legumes, grains, and vegetables1.

Traditional plant dishes from around the world.

You don’t have to look far to find examples of foods that complement each other to provide all of the amino acids you need. All around the world, traditional dishes have found a way to satisfy peoples’ hunger, tastes, and basic protein needs by relying on plant crops. Traditional plant-based dishes that offer a complete amino acid profile include:

Mexico: Black beans with corn and/or rice

Lebanon: Falafel and tahini-based sauce

Morocco: Couscous with chickpeas

Ethiopia: Injera (flat bread made with teff flour) with wat (lentil stew)

Punjab region, North India: Kaali daal (black lentils) with rice

Switzerland: Muesli (nuts and grains)

South Africa: Samp (corn) and beans


Palmer, Sharon. Plant Proteins.Today’s Dietitian, February 2017.