In general, animal food sources such as meat, eggs, and dairy contain complete proteins. Complete proteins have the correct concentrations of all eight essential amino acids and are ideal for muscle building. Essential amino acids are the amino acids that you must get from your diet because the body cannot produce them.
If you don’t eat meat or animal products though, or you prefer to keep your intake of these products on the low side, you’ll benefit from learning how to form complete proteins with other foods. Most vegan dietary sources are incomplete proteins, meaning they are low in one or more of the essential amino acids, which means on their own they aren’t so great for building muscle.
Luckily, these food sources can become complete proteins when supplemented with other complementary sources of incomplete protein. In short, some foods have certain amino acids that others lack and vice versa. When you combine the right foods, they become complete proteins that are more bio-available to the body. For muscle building purposes, especially, you should try to consume complete proteins whenever possible.
Here is a list of vegetarian foods that make complete proteins when combined:
Beans & Lentils – Grains, nuts and seeds, rice and barley
Peanut Butter – Whole wheat bread
Rice – Beans
Vegetarian chili – Whole wheat bread
Hummus (chickpeas) – Bread and crackers
By combining plant food with a small amount of animal food you will complete the protein in the plant food (making it more useful for muscle building), so if you’re not a strict vegan, you can have oatmeal and cottage cheese for breakfast and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, both of which make up complete proteins. Here are some more ideas for foods that do contain animal products that can be combined with plant foods to complete the proteins.
Egg and bean salad
Pasta with cheese
Oatmeal with milk
Yogurt with granola
Bean and cheese burrito
Finally, one of my favorite foods to eat, which just happens to be one of the very few plant foods that is a complete protein – Quinao!
It is a great substitution for white rice. It is much healthier than white rice, it tastes great and will keep you lean and fit because it’s high in fiber and rates a 41 on the Glycemic Index.