Incomplete vs. Complete Proteins

Animal Protein Versus Vegetable Protein.

In general, animal proteins (meat, fish, poultry, milk, cheese, and eggs) are considered good sources of complete proteins. Complete proteins contain ample amounts of all essential amino acids

Food For Thought

Gelatin is the only animal protein that is not considered a complete protein.

On the other hand, vegetable proteins (grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and other vegetables) are incomplete proteins because they are missing, or do not have enough of, one or more of the essential amino acids. That’s not such a big deal. You already know that grains and legumes are rich in complex carbohydrate and fiber.

Now you learn that they can be an excellent source of protein as well; it just takes a little bit of work and know-how.

By combining foods from two or more of the following columns—voilà—you create a self-made complete protein.

You see, the foods in one column may be missing amino acids that are present in the foods listed in another column.

When eaten in combination at the same meal (or separately throughout the day), your body receives all nine essential amino acids.

You can combine the following vegetable proteins to make complete proteins.

Sources of Complementary Proteins



 Combinations to Create Complete Proteins


Also, by adding small amounts of animal protein (meat, eggs, milk, or cheese) to any of the groups, you create a complete protein. Here are some examples:

  • Casserole with a small amount of meat
  • Salad with beans and a hard cooked egg
  • Yogurt with granola
  • Bean and cheese burrito
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Oatmeal with milk

Complimentary proteins are two incomplete proteins in a food that compensate for another’s shortfalls when combined.

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  1. Do you have advice for vegetarians who are trying to get complete protein? My son is a vegetarian and he gets ill often I think it his diet.