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Why You Need Complete Proteins in Your Diet and What to Do If You’re Vegan

Thanks to advancements in science and technology, we have been able to discover more about the different molecular structures that make up the food that we eat.

For many of us, the first time we heard the word protein was probably in chemistry class back in high school. Yeah, it sounded boring then because we had bigger problems to deal with (like asking our crush to prom).

Today, however, learning about proteins is vital to optimum living. In fact, it is truly important for the normal functioning of our bodies throughout our lives.

One of the main reasons for this is because proteins are the building and preservation blocks for our muscles. Additionally, they can play a vital role when it comes to weight loss.

However, once we begin to dissect the molecular structure of proteins, we find a myriad of protein types out there that can frankly, give one a headache!

Indeed, the words ‘complete proteins’ have been thrown around in a number of health and nutrition forums out there.

A complete protein is one that carries the nine essential amino acids

The Definition of a Complete Protein

Which begs the question; what is a complete protein?

In simple terms, a complete protein is one that has all the essential amino acids as part of its structure. There are nine essential amino acids that make up a complete protein.

So this is how it works. According to R.D Erik Bustillo, there are twenty essential amino acids that our bodies require for nourishment, but unfortunately, we cannot synthesize all of them on our own.

Hence, our bodies need to consume proteins to be able to synthesize these amino acids.

If we can dial it back to 9th grade, the biology teacher might have mentioned something about proteins being a combo of building blocks that include a number of amino acids essential for factors such as break down of food, the growth of tissue, and the regeneration and repair of tissue that was damaged.

Of these 20 amino acids, nine of them are referred to as ‘essential’ because our body is unable to synthesize them on its own as per data by the National Institute of Health. These are as follows:

Valine

Tryptophan

Threonine

Phenylalanine

Methionine

Lysine

Leucine

Isoleucine

Histidine

That being said, the remaining 11 amino acids are referred to as conditional because the body has the capability to produce them on its own. Which means, if our bodies are healthy, we probably won’t worry about whether or not we’re getting enough of them!

The Complete Protein and All Its Essentials

If one of these amino acids is missing in a protein molecule, then it’s safe to say that the protein is not complete. Additionally, missing out on one of these amino acids will cause our bodies not to function at their optimal.

Wait a minute, don’t panic or anything

We probably won’t die right away, but if one highly suspects that they are missing out on one of these vital amino acids, probably through exhibiting some symptoms, here’s a list of food categories that can supplement them.

Failing to get these amino acids on a regular basis can cause a myriad of health problems

Complete Protein Sources to Include in One’s Diet

Good news for all meat eaters out there! Turns out that if a person regularly includes meat and the likes of fish (or shall we call them pescatarians), they are definitely getting their daily dose of all the nine essential amino acids.

Heck, the lact-ovo vegetarians get their daily dose of the nine essential amino acids from the wide choice of dairy sources that they consume!

Sorry vegans, no complete proteins for you!

Unfortunately for vegans, plant-based proteins such as seeds, nuts, grains, and beans do have some of these amino acids, but not all of the nine to make them complete proteins.

Nevertheless, there is one exception to this rule, and that is soy! Yep, soy is the only plant-based protein in living existence to contain all nine essential amino acids. So now we know why mom kept insisting for us to eat our soybeans on a daily basis!

If you’re a vegan, getting a complementary protein in your diet is essential to obtain these amino acids

Thankfully, a Plant-Based Diet Can Still Work

Now, here’s the down low. If one happens to be a vegan and needs to get all nine essential amino acids, they will have to eat a combinate of incomplete proteins as part of their diet to make it work.

The second plant-based protein is what is called a complementary protein. We’re talking about pairing legumes e.g. peas and beans, with grains such as nuts and seeds to give you a meal with complete proteins!

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