Complementary protein nutrition refers to the practice of combining two or more plant-based protein sources that individually may be low in one or more essential amino acids, but together provide all the essential amino acids required by the body. This is often done to ensure an adequate intake of all essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins and are necessary for growth and repair of body tissues.
Plant-based protein sources, such as grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, tend to be lower in one or more essential amino acids than animal-based protein sources. For example, grains such as wheat, rice, and corn are low in lysine, an essential amino acid, while legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are low in methionine and cysteine. By combining these sources, such as beans and rice, the amino acids in each food complement each other and together provide all the essential amino acids.
Examples of complementary protein combinations include:
- Rice and beans
- Whole wheat bread and peanut butter
- Hummus and pita bread
- Lentils and rice
- Tofu and quinoa
It’s important to note that plant-based sources can be complementary to provide all the essential amino acids, but it’s not necessary to combine them at every meal. It’s enough to consume a variety of plant-based protein sources throughout the day. Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that some plant-based protein sources, such as soy and quinoa, are considered to be complete proteins because they contain all the essential amino acids.