The Incomplete Protein Story

On Friday I wrote about complete proteins and the functions of protein in the body.  Today I’m going to tell you about incomplete proteins.

Incomplete proteins are foods that are missing one or more of the essential amino acids.  Examples of incomplete proteins are:

  • Legumes – missing methionine & cysteine
  • Vegetables – missing lysine
  • Grains – missing lysine, methionine & cysteine
  • Nuts & Seeds – missing lysine & isoleucine

It’s important for vegetarians to understand how to combine incomplete proteins to get all essential amino acids.  When proteins are combined in this way they are called complementary proteins.  While it is not necessary to consume complementary proteins together at each meal, you do need to consume them within the same day.

Here are examples are complementary proteins:

  • Legumes & Grains
  • Legumes & Nuts/Seeds
  • Grains & Legumes
  • Vegetables & Legumes & Grains
  • Vegetables & Legumes & Nuts/Seeds

These are some food ideas to obtain complete proteins:

  • Rice & Lentils or Beans
  • Hummus
  • Peanut/Almond Butter on bread
  • Barley & Bean soup
  • Bean burrito
  • Salad topped with kidney beans & almonds
  • Pasta tossed with white beans & broccoli
  • Lentil soup with slivered almonds



5 Responses

  1. […] Top Posts Chicken Salad with Grapes & CranberriesRecipes & Meal IdeasPeanut Butter & Jelly LarabarModeration, Variety, Balance & AdequacyMy Career PathNatalie's Fitness & Wellness BlogVegetable Fried RiceAbout EveBlackened TilapiaThe Incomplete Protein Story […]

  2. […] It is a complete protein, unlike other grains that are missing certain amino acids. […]

  3. […] sure that you are consuming complementary proteins.  To learn more about complete proteins and incomplete proteins read these […]

  4. I started eating vegan one week ago. I found your site while looking up which amino acids are lacking from lentils so I would know if this particular soup I’m making tonight would be complete protein if I added brown rice (I realize all the essential amino acids do not have to be present in the same meal). What I am reading under “The Incomplete Protein Story” confused me a bit though. Lentils are legumes, and the article states legumes are missing methionine & cysteine, and grains are missing lysine, methionine & cysteine. So then why, below this, do you state that legumes and grains are complementary proteins if two of the same essential amino acids are missing from each?

    Thank you so much!

    Martha C

    • I understand the grammar is faulty: the author meant grains are missing lycine but have methionine and and cysteine, whereas legumes are missing methionine and cysteine. You must be aware of the nine essential amino acids to infer legumes contain lycine.
      Very confusing.

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