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What Are Complete Protein Foods?

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We hear about protein all the time, but how often do you hear the phrase “complete protein”, and what does it mean? 

Foods containing complete protein are crucial for maintaining your muscle mass, keeping your bones strong, and supporting various body functions. In this article, we'll explore what complete protein is, the role it plays in the body, and what foods are the best sources of it. 

What is a Complete Protein? 

First, let's define what complete protein is. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are considered the building blocks of our bodies. 

There are 20 different types of amino acids, but nine of them are considered essential because our bodies cannot produce them on their own. Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids in adequate amounts for our body's needs.

In other words, they provide a complete set of amino acids necessary for optimal health and function.

Why is Complete Protein Important?

Protein plays many crucial roles in our bodies. It helps build and repair tissues, such as muscles, bones, and skin. It also produces enzymes, hormones, and antibodies that support various body functions. Additionally, protein is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system and promoting proper growth and development.

Complete proteins are especially important for individuals who are physically active or have higher protein requirements due to factors like age or illness. Without enough complete protein intake, the body may not be able to perform these vital functions efficiently.

Proteins play a vital role in building and repairing tissues, producing enzymes and hormones, and supporting the immune system. 

A complete protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass and keeping bones strong. It is also vital for the production of healthy blood cells and maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails.

Benefits of Consuming Complete Protein Foods

Consuming complete protein foods has numerous benefits for your health. These foods can help you build muscle mass, lose weight, reduce muscle soreness after exercise, and support your immune system. Complete protein foods have also been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Sources of Complete Protein

Animal-based sources of complete protein include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. These foods contain all the essential amino acids that our bodies require. 

Animal-based sources of complete protein also tend to contain higher levels of certain nutrients like Vitamin B12, which is essential for nerve function and healthy blood cells.

Plant-based sources of complete protein include beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and tofu. While these foods may not have all the essential amino acids on their own, they can be combined with other plant-based sources of protein to create a complete protein source.

How Much Complete Protein Do You Need? 

The amount of complete protein required varies depending on a person's age, sex, weight, and activity level. 

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recommended daily intake of protein for adults is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. 

If you are an athlete or someone who engages in regular physical activity, your protein requirements may be higher.

Tips for Incorporating Complete Protein into Vegetarian/Vegan Diets

Incorporating complete protein into vegetarian or vegan diets may seem a bit trickier, but can be easy and delicious! 

Some tips to help you include complete protein in your diet include adding lentils to your soups and stews, making delicious and protein-rich smoothies with nuts and seeds, and using tofu or tempeh to make stir-fries and tacos. You can also experiment with different types of grains, such as quinoa or amaranth, which are considered complete proteins on their own.

Don't forget about the power of beans and legumes! These plant-based sources of protein can be incorporated into a variety of dishes, such as chili, salads, and even veggie burgers. And let's not overlook the versatile egg for vegetarians–– it’s a complete protein and can be used in many vegetarian and vegan recipes.

Often vegan and vegetarian sources are incomplete proteins, like legumes or certain grains by themselves, so incorporate a variety into your diet. Don't be afraid to try new foods and get creative in the kitchen when it comes to incorporating complete protein into your diet, because the benefits are definitely worth it. 


Complete protein foods are essential for maintaining optimal health and wellbeing. Whether you are a meat-eater, vegetarian, or vegan, there are plenty of options for getting complete protein in your diet. 

Be sure to include a variety of sources of complete protein to ensure that you are getting all the essential amino acids your body requires.  Experiment with different recipes and ingredients to find what works best for you.

Remember, a well-rounded diet that includes complete protein will not only provide your body with the necessary building blocks for strong muscles and tissues, but it will also support healthy immune function, hormone production, and overall energy levels. All this adds up to a happier, healthier you!