Pairing proteins to make a power-pack!

Protein is the building block of every cell in your body, and if you are not a Person that Enjoys Tasty Animals (PETA, right?), a bit more effort is required to get your nutritional needs for this precious nutrient. Vegetarians can struggle as individual plant sources will not cover all the bases for your protein needs, which makes it necessary to “pair” a couple of sources together to give your body it’s power-pack of protein.

Protein is made up of amino acids that are the “building blocks” for your body.  Many of these amino acids can be made by the body and are called non-essential amino acids, but there are 8 that cannot be made by the body and are called essential amino acids, and they must come from the diet.

Here lies the problem for vegetarians. In order to have protein synthesis, your body must have a complete protein, which is one that contains all of the essential amino acids. Complete proteins are found in animal sources such as meat, eggs, cheese, poultry, milk, and cheese, but not in single plant sources, except for soybeans, tofu, and edamame.  Vegetarians often must “pair” plant protein sources to get a complete protein.

There are easy “protein-pairings” that will give your body what it needs.  Here are examples:

~ Whole grains paired with legumes.

~ Nuts paired with legumes.

~ Seeds paired with legumes.

While this list looks limiting, it really is not.  Grains include such things as rice, corn, and whole grain breads, cereals, and pastas.  Add to that the long list of seeds and nuts that can also be paired with legumes (beans), and you have a ton of variety that is often easy and fast.  How can you beat the ease of a peanut butter sandwich, huh?

If you are considering a vegetarian diet, “pairing proteins” will take effort and you will have some growing pains.  No different than having to measure your portion sizes on any other diet.  But once you get used to it, pairing will be easy.

In conclusion, complete proteins are only one aspect of a vegetarian diet that will need some attention.  Vegan diets (those with no animal products at all) are often deficient in vitamin B-12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, and iron.  While many people believe strongly in the benefits of a vegan diet, it is not something you can simply jump into without some serious planning.


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