Incomplete Proteins | Combinations of Protein Foods


Eggs are great complete protein sources

Incomplete proteins are foods containing low protein or only some of the nine amino acids that you need in your diet. Usually, vegetable protein (plant-based proteins) is considered incomplete as it lacks one or more of the nine essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins can be combined to make available all of the essential amino acids and form a complete protein.
Include both complete and incomplete proteins into your diet. Complete proteins hold all the necessary amino acids. Most animal foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, cheese and milk are complete proteins. Some plant proteins, eggs, soybean products such as tofu are also complete proteins.

Choosing a variety of protein foods will make sure that you acquire all the essential nutrients. To provide your body with all the necessary amino acids, join two incomplete proteins together. In addition, when preparing a meal, you can pair incomplete protein with a small amount of complete protein. In most diets, a mixture of animal and plant protein is suggested.

Incomplete Food List

Sources of incomplete protein include:

  • grains
  • legumes
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • vegetables
  • barley
  • bulgur
  • cornmeal
  • oats
  • buckwheat
  • pasta
  • rye
  • wheat
  • beans
  • lentils
  • dried peas
  • peanuts
  • chickpeas
  • soy products
  • sesame seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • walnuts
  • cashews
  • pumpkin seeds

    and other nuts are the main sources of incomplete proteins.

Combinations List

1. Combine Grains and Legumes

Peanut butter on whole-wheat bread; rice and beans; bean soup and a roll; salad with chickpeas and cornbread; corn and beans; tofu-vegetable stir-fry over rice or pasta; wheat bread and baked beans; corn soy or wheat soy bread; legume soup with bread; vegetarian chili with bread etc.

2. Combine Grains and Nuts/Seeds

Whole wheat and peanut butter, breadsticks rolled with sesame seeds; rice cakes with peanut butter; whole-wheat bun with sesame seeds; breads with added seed meals; breads with sesame or sunflower seed spread; rice with sesame seeds etc.

3. Combine Legumes and Nuts/Seeds

Humus (chickpeas and sesame paste) and Trail mix (peanuts and sunflower seeds)

Other possible combinations include whole-grain pasta tossed with peas, almonds, and Low-Fat Vegan Alfredo Sauce; Whole wheat toast with peanut butter; Bean soup with whole grain crackers; and Corn tortillas with refried beans and rice.

In addition to the above, by combining small amounts of animal protein – such as meat, milk, eggs or cheese – to any of the grains, legumes, nuts/seeds groups, you create a complete protein. That includes casserole with a small amount of meat; salad with beans and a hard cooked egg; milk and wheat cereal; yogurt with granola; cereal with milk; pasta with milk or cheese; bread with milk or cheese; bean and cheese burrito; macaroni and cheese; oatmeal with milk and so much more.