What is a complete protein?

Joseph M. Mercola, DO
Family Medicine

Proteins are made up of substances called amino acids -- 22 of which are considered vital for your health. Your body can make 14 of these amino acids, but the other eight, known as essential amino acids, must be obtained from what you eat. Proteins are found in all types of food, but only meat, eggs, cheese and other foods from animal sources contain complete proteins, meaning they provide the eight essential amino acids.

Marisa Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics

A complete (or high quality) protein is one that supplies all of the essential amino acids.  Animal proteins like meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs and cheese fit into this category. Soybeans and quinoa are two of the few plant based sources that are considered complete.

Complete proteins contain all eight essential amino acids. Brown rice can be
combined with beans, cheese, nuts, wheat, or sesame seeds to form complete proteins. Beans
can be combined with nuts or corn. In addition, soybean products, such as tofu, are complete proteins. Basically, combining any legume (dried pea, bean or lentil) with any grain (such as rice or whole wheat) will form a complete protein.
Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine

A complete protein is one source that provides all of the nine essential amino acids in adequate amounts. Animal products such as, meat, fish, dairy, and poultry, are examples of complete proteins. Plant foods, especially grains and legumes, often lack one or more of the essential amino acids, but become complete protein sources when they are combined. For example, combining grains with legumes results in a complete protein as the two protein sources complement each other in their amino acid profiles.

With a varied diet of grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, a person assured of complete proteins, as long as the calorie content of the diet is high enough. Nonetheless, when electing to eat less animal food in the diet, it is important to design the diet to provide adequate amounts of protein.

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Encyclopedia of Healing Foods

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.