So I’m sure if you saw the Did You Know nutrition/fitness/health link-up post, you were wondering what the heck cookies have to do with a nutrition topic other than they are “bad for you.” (I put this in quotes because I hate saying things are “bad for you.” See I did it again.)
Believe it or not, those Almond Delight cookies are a complete protein. No, I didn’t add a protein powder.
What is a complete protein, you ask? Good question.
Not all protein sources are created equal. Even if the label shows “protein” it doesn’t necessarily mean your body will be able to fully use that protein.
Let’s get into some definitions here:
Amino acids are used to build proteins in the body such as muscle proteins or proteins that make up the lens of the eye.
Essential amino acids are those that cannot be made by the body (or are made in small, insignificant amounts) so we need those amino acids to come from the food we eat.
The essential acids are: histidine (also the NASM lists this one as “semiessential”), isoleucine, phenylalanine, valine, leucine, threonine, tryptophan (the turkey one), lysine and methionine. We had to memorize those for a nutrition class I took over a year ago. No, I did not remember all of them today.
Limiting amino acids: most of the essential acids are readily available in the diet, but there are 3 amino acids that are a little more tricky to obtain. If your diet does not contain methionine/cystein (these are basically interchangeable as the body can convert from one to the other), tryptophan and lysine, it will limit the ability for the other amino acids to work in the body…which is obviously a bad thing.
There are also conditional amino acids: those only essential for certain population groups and non-essential amino acids that the body makes.
A complete protein is a food (or food coupling) that contain(s) all 9 of the essential amino acids so that your body can function at an optimum level building and repairing tissue (including growing your muscles) and lending a hand to hormone and enzyme functions.
Whew, was that enough nutrition nerding-out for you?
Now let’s dive into some of the complete protein sources available to us.
Luckily for us carnivores, all we have to do is eat a bit of meat each day and voila. Essential amino acids are doing their thing.
Luckily for vegetarians, all you have to do is whip up an omelet or two or a Chipotle Egg Salad and you are good to go.
You can throw some cheese on top of that omelet to boot or drink a glass of milk. Lactose-intolerant? I have a sweet product review/giveaway coming up on the blog JUST for you! (Get excited!)
But what if you are trying to stick to a vegan diet? How will your muscles be able to grow?
Luckily for vegans, there are plenty of vegan protein options using certain grains and food pairing.
4. Quinoa. (Complete vegan protein option #1)
This is amazing vegan protein option pronounced KEEN-wah for those of you who don’t frequent the foodie scene. Don’t worry, I pronounced it wrong in my head for a LONG time before I saw the pronunciation written out. Now we sell it at the cafe and I try not to giggle when people say it wrong.
5. Chia seeds. (complete vegan protein option #2)
Ch-ch-ch-chia! Although it doesn’t taste the greatest on it’s own (and you would have to chew, chew, chew! to get the nutrients out), you can make chia-gel with water or milk to put in baking items in place of eggs (or in power bites!) as well as throwing into smoothies or making chia pudding (which I have yet to try). It’s an easy vegan protein option. Check out this post for how I whip up the chia gel.
6. Soy. (Complete vegan protein option #3)
Although soy has gotten some flack recently, soy is a complete vegan protein. Just be wary of the highly processed versions.
7. Ezekiel bread. (complete vegan protein option #4)
The combination of legumes and grains makes this bread a complete protein. I still like to top it with peanut butter. 😉 Ezekiel bread also has vegan and gluten free options…bonus!
Speaking of legumes and grains…this brings us to the next sub-topic: food pairings. If you pair foods together smartly, the essential amino acids one food is lacking, the other will cover making the two combined a complete protein. It’s like magic…only it’s just fun nutrition. A lot of these pairings you will recognize and hopefully already incorporate in your diet if you are vegetarian/vegan or going meatless for a day.
And guess what has both a nut and a grain??
8. Nutty cookies with wheat flour. (complete vegan protein option #5)
I know you were wondering when I would get back to the Almond Delight cookies, and here they are in all of their glory! Since these cookies have both almond flour (plus almonds) and wheat flour, they are complete protein! Yes, they have their fair share of butter and sugar (making this particular version not vegan), so this shouldn’t be considered a meal in itself, but it IS a great semi-healthy dessert. The same goes for peanut butter cookies. I knew I liked them for a reason. 😉
9. Peanut butter and whole wheat bread. (complete vegan protein option #6)
AKA my breakfast every morning. Another example of a legume and grain meeting and making a wonderful complete vegan protein baby (vegan if there is no dairy in the bread).
10. Rice + Beans. (complete vegan protein option #7)
The classic Mexican side dish is likely paired together for a reason…who knew?
11. Oatmeal and almond milk. (complete vegan protein option #8)
This is yet another version of the grain + legumes pairing. You could also add some nut butter to oats if you want to prepare them with water.
12. Yogurt and granola.
Yogurt is already a complete protein, but it is a great way to boost the amino acid efficiency of the granola. Plus it is really good. (<–the sentence of a truly talented writer.) I might venture off for some right this minute…
If you haven’t already, head over to our nutrition/fitness/health link-up for more fun slash nerdy informational posts!
Out of all of these…which protein is your favorite?
Are you vegetarian or vegan? Where do you most frequently get your protein?
PS I’m all about Pinterest this year, so I would LOVE IT if you could pin one (or two!) of these images. Just hover over the image to reveal the “pin it” button or use the handy dandy buttons at the bottom and top of each post to display the whole list of pins.
Also follow me so I can check out YOUR Pinterest account! 🙂