A complete protein is a food that contains all 9 essential amino acids. In total we need 20 amino acids in order to function, but 11 of these can be synthesised by the body. The remaining 9 are essential as they need to be acquired through diet.
Amino acids are literally the building blocks of life. They combine to form proteins that allow cells to grow and regulate.
The 9 essential amino acids are leucine, histidine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, lysine, methionine, tryptophan, threonine and valine.
Most foods that provide a complete protein source are animal based; such as red meat, fish, eggs, poultry, dairy cheese and dairy yoghurt. There are some plant based complete proteins such as quinoa and chia seeds but the vast majority of vegan foods on their own are not a complete protein.
Old School Meat Thinking
The fact that most plant foods aren’t a complete protein was commonly used as a stick to beat people on a plant based or vegan diet with. The thinking was that it can’t be healthy to live on plants as it’s very difficult to get complete protein with all essential amino acids at each meal.
The outdated view was that if you were eating plant foods then for every single meal it was vital to carefully plan according to amino acids what you eat else you risk being deficient and unhealthy. Plant protein combining is in practice very difficult and time-consuming to get all 9 EEAs. Thankfully it’s now know to be a myth.
You Don’t Need to Consume Every Essential Amino Acid With Every Meal
It just isn’t important to get all EEAs in every single meal.
You just need to have all 9 EEAs across a day. This is easy on a plant based diet full of natural produce.
Is Animal Protein Higher Quality?
One argument against plant-based sources of protein is that animal protein is superior because they help the body grow quicker. Unfortunately, it’s been shown that animal protein makes all cells grow quicker including cancer cells. Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels are increased with a high meat diet.
Plant proteins have been shown to decrease the levels of IGF-1 meaning they discourage cancer cell growth. Plant proteins are believed to be a better choice over meat as they are lower in levels of the essential amino acid leucine meaning the ageing process is slower.
A Whole Food Plant Based Diet Contains All Essential Amino Acids
The good news is modern studies have debunked the thinking that every meal needs to contain all EEA and concluded there are no concerns over amino acids in a plant based diet.
All whole foods contain amino acids. As long as you eat a wide variety of minimally processed whole foods over a day then you need not worry about amino acids or complete proteins.
How to Ensure Your Plant Based Diet Contains All Amino Acids
- Eat enough calories for your weight.
- Consume a variety of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses.
- Base the majority of your diet on whole food unprocessed foods.
- Eat a rainbow of different produce.
- Don’t follow a fruit only diet.
- Consume at least 5% of your calories from protein. This is not difficult as many plant foods contain way more, oats are 16%.
As Healthline say “if you’re following a plant-based diet, you can still ensure proper intake of all essential amino acids as long as you eat a variety of plant proteins each day.”
Plant Protein Recipes
Please find below some of my most popular recipes that are easy to make, nututious and loaded in plant protein. All are free of dairy, wheat, eggs, meat and gluten.
15 thoughts on “Complete Protein On A Vegan Diet”
Your recipes look amazing!!!
Misspellings or bad grammar (only one instance) will cause readers to doubt the validity of your statements…. especially if you do not prove them or support them with evidence. Statements without proof become purely political or just opinions…. they do not foster or support knowledge.
Hi there, it’s very difficult to check your own work but I try my best.
We all make typos, why not share what the typos were and add your opinion to the article rather than just nitpicking?
Oh, please. There were plenty of links in the article to back up any claims made. Your issue was with the content. You don’t like what the article is telling you. You’d rather pretend that there aren’t mounds of evidence pointing to the superiority of a plant-based diet, so you can continue to eat what you want.
Plus, you overuse ellipses. :p
Perfect analysis, Niki x
I am trying to find a list of the essential Amino Acids and their sources for a Vegan friend. I am concerned about her health and want to help support her.
Do you know if there is such a list? If so, could you post or send a link, please.
I am not an expert, I am a teenager interested in the same things. I myself found this website, maybe it can help you https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/need-protein-amino-acids-found-abundantly-in-plants/
Could you provide the bibliography you used? Thanks for the post!
Hi, references are the links in the post 🙂
The only typo I noticed was EEAs instead of EAAs, but Grammarly (free service) showed 19 corrections, some of which are simply missing hyphens or correcting alternate (e.g. British/foreign) spellings of a word, but there were a couple legit corrections: “Thankfully it’s now know to be a myth” and “ageing”
Hi, thanks for a great post?
I’ve been a vegan for 4 months now and I am only getting better and better in health. I am concerned though from time to time that I don’t get all the essential nutrients, proteins, etc.
Lately I have been checking out amino acids and what they really are, I have read that too much intake doesn’t exist so I am still going to take a supplement but your post was great and it helped a lot. Keep up the nice work ? And spread vegan love for a better planet.
Did y’all come to learn or troll? The notion that grammatical or even spelling errors equate to merit or validity is childish. Some of the greatest minds had terrible writing/speech and some of the wealthiest people on the planet don’t have the English degree some of y’all obvuiusly have and are using.
Thank you for the information, really like your blog!
Hemp have it all….
My sister lost 35 pounds on the FOK diet (She was obese so this was a good thing.). Her health is not the greatest, but after she had been on this vegan diet a few months, she started having serious health issues, (like breathing issues and strokes!) Her doctor told her to add animal protein, that she was seriously protein deficient and she could not get the complete amino acids that she needs without it. She added Kiefer and some occasional eggs, chicken, fish and is now doing much better without gaining back any weight and she is feeling better than she has felt in a long time. I myself am eating vegan, but tend to be protein deficient so I worry about this. I hope the article above is true.