Maybe you’ve heard the term “complete protein.” It derives from the idea that there are 20 different amino acids that can form a protein, and the human body can’t produce nine of them on its own. In order to be considered “complete,” a protein must contain all nine of these essential amino acids in equal amounts.
The thing is, we don’t need the complete amino-acid profile in every meal. We need only a sufficient amount of each amino acid daily. Dietitians confirm that plant-based foods contain a wide variety of profiles, and vegans are pretty much guaranteed to get their daily dose without even trying.
Still worried about your protein profiles? Here are 11 plant-based foods or food combos that are considered complete protein sources:
1. Buckwheat is hearty and versatile—and isn’t a type of wheat at all. In fact, it’s a cousin of rhubarb. Japanese buckwheat noodles, or soba, are a great protein source. Check out this spicy soba noodle recipe featuring shiitake mushrooms and cabbage, or try this heavenly buckwheat porridge with figs. What the heck—here’s a buckwheat pancake mix, too.
2. Hummus and pita might already be one of your go-to snacks. If you haven’t ever made hummus from scratch, we suggest that you take the plunge. Try this recipe to take your love of hummus to new heights.
3. You have to give it up for soy. Whether it’s in the form of tofu, tempeh, or edamame beans, it’s a powerful food that offers cardiovascular benefits, helps prevent prostate and colon cancers, decreases hot flashes in menopausal women, and protects against osteoporosis. Love a quick breakfast sandwich? Try this tempeh “bacon” sandwich. If you’re more of the lunch-sandwich type, we recommend this Vietnamese tofu bánh mì sandwich. And here are six other fun ways to prepare tofu.
4. Roasted and salted pumpkin seeds are a good snack to have on hand.
5. Peanut butter toast?! (Or bagel, or english muffin.) Don’t you love it when your favorite snack is also a complete protein source?
6. Hemp is pretty much a miracle plant. Rich in fatty acids linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linoleic acid (omega-3), hemp seeds are said to aid digestion, lower your risk of developing heart disease, and relieve symptoms of PMS and menopause. Just three teaspoons of hemp protein powder contains 15 grams of protein. That’s 30 percent of your daily value! Check out this delicious hemp milk and this mouthwatering hemp and beet burger that no cow had to die for. Navitas Organics offers a sizeable selection of healthy hemp products and supplements.
7. Beans and rice, anyone? But of course. Take a look at this rice, bean, and kale bowl with lemon-dill tahini.
8. Chia seeds are loaded with iron, calcium, zinc, and antioxidants. Since they form a gel when mixed with water, they make a great egg replacer. They’re also perfect for puddings and smoothies.
9. Ezekiel bread is made from sprouted grains, which significantly increase the bread’s fiber and nutrient content. They also make it easier to digest.
10. Ah, quinoa! We love you so. Check out these tasty quinoa recipes.
11. Spirulina is considered a “superfood” and, when combined with grains, oats, nuts, or seeds, forms a complete protein. Add spirulina powder to your next morning smoothie.
Here are some more protein-packed vegan foods.
If this article is making you question your current lifestyle, then we have just the thing for you: our free vegan starter kit, with tips and information about going vegan. For animals, the environment, and your health, order one today.