Protein means ‘primary substance’. Protein is second to water in the cell, making up 20% of the body weight. It is the major component of most tissues and cells in the body including hair, skin, nails, eyes, internal organs and genetic make up – so just about everything! Proteins are made up of twenty different amino acids, eight of these are essential, meaning that they cannot be synthesized by the body and therefore have to come from the food we eat. We need all the amino acids in the correct proportions for the body to be able to use the protein.
Complete protein comes from animal origin i.e. meat, fish, dairy and eggs, these contain the closest proportion of amino acids we need. Whereas, incomplete protein comes from plant sources i.e. legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. It is important to combine proteins of plant origin in order for our bodies to be able to make complete protein.
The following incomplete proteins, if combined, will make a complete protein:
- Legumes and Grains
- Grains and Nuts/Seeds
- Nuts/Seeds and Legumes
Legumes Grains Nuts and seeds Beans:
These do not have to be combined in the same meal, but should be eaten in the same day e.g. if you have muesli for breakfast and almonds as an afternoon snack, you will have combined proteins adequately.
Of plant sources the ones with the highest protein content are quinoa, amaranth and soy (tempeh, tofu, miso, soy sauce, soy milk, soy beans)
Other Protein Sources:
- Wild blue-green micro-algae
- Bee pollen and Royal Jelly are rich sources of protein and vitamin B12
- Seaweeds have high protein content.