Where did the thinking that plant proteins or vegan proteins are “incomplete” - or that we need to combine different plant proteins in one meal or snack to make it “complete” - come from?
According to Michael Greger M.D. FACLM the idea that plant proteins or vegan proteins were not complete was made popular in 1975 when fashion magazine VOGUE promoted the idea of a “Protein Combining” diet.. but this idea that plant proteins were somehow “incomplete” was refuted by the US nutrition industry.
The American Heart Association has published their updated advice on this topic saying: “You don’t need food from animals . Plant proteins alone can provide enough of the essential and non essential amino acids as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and calorific intake is high enough to meet energy needs”. The Association went on to say “Whole-grains, legumes, seeds and nuts all contain both essential and non essential amino acids. You don’t need to consciously combine these foods within a given meal”.
A good place to start on this interesting topic might be the answer to the question “What is Protein”?
Proteins are large molecules that our cells need to function properly. They consist of amino acids. The structure and function of our bodies depend on proteins. The regulation of the body's cells, tissues, and organs cannot happen without them. According to The Vegan Society, Protein gives our bodies structure as part of our muscles and bones. It is also used for fighting infection, carrying oxygen, growth and repair.
What are amino acids? The British Nutrition Foundation says : “Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Proteins are large molecules made up of long chains of amino acids”.
According to the British Nutrition Foundation there are about 20 different amino acids commonly found in plant and animal proteins. For adults, 8 of these, have to be provided in the diet and are therefore defined as ‘essential’ or ‘indispensable’ amino acids. These are:
Within this group are the BCAAs or Branched Chain Amino Acids - leucine, isoleucine and valine all of which are found in vegan proteins.
So know how much of each essential amino acid do we need each day from what we eat?
The table above is from the World Health Organisation and provides guidelines - they say safe upper levels are up to 24% higher than this depending on the individual.
This blog is only a snapshot into the area of protein combining which is only one part of overall optimum nutrition. We recommend that if you need more information on your nutrition contact a dietician who can help you understand your own personal nutrition needs.
That Protein has a range of award winning organic vegan proteins including low fodmap options available in stores and on the webshop at www.thatprotein.com