A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Complement Your Protein

“Hey, Protein….you’re lookin’ good today!”  No, not a compl-i-ment, a compl-e-ment, which is combining foods that have incomplete essential amino acid (building blocks of protein) profiles to create complete essential amino acid profiles.

Our bodies need all nine essential amino acids to carry-out their bodily functions on a daily basis.  They are essential because our bodies cannot produce them alone and need to obtain them from food sources.  Here’s a list of the essential amino acids along with their optimal amount of mg per gram of protein (sourced from Wikipedia):

Essential Amino Acid - mg/g of Protein
Tryptophan - 7
Threonine - 27
Isoleucine - 25
Leucine - 55
Lysine - 51
Methionine+Cystine - 25
Phenylalanine+Tyrosine - 47
Valine - 32
Histidine - 18

Proteins acquired from animal foods like meat, dairy, fish, eggs, and poultry already come complete with the nine essentials. Plant foods, on the other hand, usually fall short of a few amino acids and need to be paired with other sources. As a note, some vegetarian foods like quinoa, spirulina, and soybeans are complete proteins, but do not have as high of a profile as other sources (see PDCAAS on Wikipedia).
Some common examples of complementary protein foods are:
  • Bean burrito
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Whole grain cereal with milk
  • Hummus with pita bread/chips
  • Beans and rice
But those are pretty common meals; let’s look at some more interesting combos and pictures that might have you “complimenting” these complementary foods.
Try a warm or cold split pea soup puree with crusty whole grain bread to use for dipping.

Cool off with plain low-fat yogurt mixed with fresh or frozen fruit and a sprinkle of granola.

Wow your friends, family, and taste buds with a black bean and barley salad.

Black bean and pumpkin burgers served on top of rice or with sweet potatoes…..a nice recipe for Meatless Monday maybe?

Rice pudding with peanut butter provides a complete protein to complete your day with a smile.

I use this recipe and substitute brown rice, skim milk, 1 egg + 3 egg whites, and stevia instead of white rice, 2% milk, 3 whole eggs, and sugar respectively. Also, not a fan of raisins, so I keep those out and only use a sprinkle of roasted almonds, peanuts or pistachios.

Something to remember is that you don’t have to stress to have complementary foods all in one meal. Eating yogurt for breakfast then having a grain product at lunch would provide your body a source of complete protein. Have fun and be creative with your food, there are numerous ways to give your body what it needs! Try making it a game for each family member to create their own combos and make one for each day of the week.

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