Are you one of the many people eating less meat and incorporating more meatless dishes at mealtimes as part of a healthy lifestyle? Even if you are not going completely vegetarian, finding the right combinations of foods to create the complete proteins your body needs can be daunting.
Here are some tips to help eliminate the gastronomic guesswork and make your meatless meals balanced and complete.
Do not confuse combining foods to get complete proteins for the dietary trend called "food combining." The two differ in both theory and practice. The dietary trend of food combining requires that all food intake be scrutinized and that specific combinations be eaten in a certain order and even at a certain time of day. This type of eating is supposed to result in digestive benefits, including easier digestion, more complete absorption of nutrients and easier breakdown of fats and carbohydrates.
On the other hand, combining foods for complete meatless proteins is a process with the goal of supplying balanced nutrition for meals that do not contain meat. There is no digestive or nutritive goal beyond making complete proteins from vegetable, grain, bean or legume, and seed or nut combinations. Though these foods are healthy, by themselves they cannot supply complete proteins.
There has long been speculation as to whether or not it is necessary to combine proteins within a single meal to complete them. Some say it is, but a position paper on vegetarian diets by the American Dietetic Association states that plant protein can meet dietary protein requirements when a variety of plant foods is consumed and a person's diet has sufficient calories. In addition, research indicates that plant foods eaten throughout the day can provide the diet with all essential amino acids. Further, the proteins do not have to be eaten together in a single meal.
Combining foods for complete proteins is not a new practice spawned from the popularity of vegetarianism. Most cultures have integrated some form of bean and whole-grain dish for their meatless protein combos. A nice added benefit of complete proteins is that, unlike animal proteins, they are high in heart-healthy fiber as well.
Some combinations, such as legumes and seeds or nuts and meals of legumes and whole grains readily make complete proteins. However, eating beans and lentils all the time, though healthy, can get really boring. An easy way to avoid "bean burnout" is to compile lists of foods you particularly like but which lack similar amino acids. Just pick and choose one from each list for your meatless meals to round out your proteins. Use the following lists of foods to mix and match to round out a complete protein meal. These lists are by no means exhaustive, and more extensive information on food combinations can be found at Vegalicious.org. And remember, to make complete proteins, these foods can be eaten together in one meal or spread out over the course of your day.
(foods low in sulfur)
(foods low in tryptophan)
(foods low in lysine)
Getting complete proteins may seem like an issue reserved for vegans or vegetarians but knowing about plant proteins and combining them to make complete proteins can be important for even the lightly carnivorous.
Serves 4 to 6
Serves 4 to 6
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