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Protein Sources (plant-based versus animal source)

It is important to consider the amount, quality and balance of essential amino acids in the proteins that we ingest.   Animal-derived proteins are easily digested and generally contain a mix of amino acids that is very similar to ours (complete protein source).   Plant sources of protein are not as easily digested and more than one source of plant protein is required in order to create an optimum amino acid profile or complete protein.    The amount of protein required in the diet is inversely proportional to the amount of complete or complementary proteins that are ingested.  Consuming poor-quality protein sources that are either not complete or non-complementary increases the amount of protein required in order to obtain amino acids in the correct proportions to meet our needs.

Complementary protein sources

If a diet is completely devoid of animal-derived protein sources, it is still relatively easy to create an optimum balance of amino acids from plant sources as long as the protein is not from a single source.  By combining various complementary plant-derived protein sources, the ideal mix of amino acids can be easily obtained.  Complementary proteins do not have to be ingested in the same meal… The key is to consume plant foods from several sources throughout the day in order to provide enough of the essential amino acids in the correct proportions.

complementary proteins

[Complete protein: source of protein that contains all nine essential amino acids in adequate proportions. ]

It is almost impossible to be deficient in a particular amino acid when an adequate amount of calories are consumed from a diet derived solely on unprocessed whole natural plant foods from a variety of sources.

Group A:  [Deficient in lysine.  High in methionine and cysteine.]
Grains:  barley, buckwheat, cornmeal, oats, rice, rye, wheat.
Nuts and seeds: pumpkin, sesame, sunflower

Group B:  [Deficient in methionine and cysteine.  High in lysine.]
Legumes:  beans, chickpeas, lentils,  peas, peanuts, soybeans.


Simple examples of complementary meals include:

  1. Rice and beans
  2. Lentils and rice
  3. Bread and peanut butter
  4. Hummus (chickpeas and sesame seeds (tahini))
  5. Rice-bean casserole
  6. Trail mix: peanuts, sunflower seeds, etc.


Complementary Protein Powder Example:
Simple example of creating a complementary protein source – combining two commercial products to create a complete protein supplement.  In this example a legume-based protein (Now sports pea protein)  and rice protein are combined.  A final analysis follows.

Now sports pea protein: Contains no: sugar, salt, starch, yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, milk, egg, shellfish or preservatives. Vegetarian/Vegan Product. Ingredient: 100% Pure Non-GMO Pea Protein Isolate[from yellow peas (Pisum sativum)]. Allergen-Free. Pea protein like other legumes are deficient in methionine.

NutriBiotic Vegan Rice Protein is a high quality, low carbohydrate vegetable protein. Enzymatically processed rice protein from whole grain, sprouted brown rice and natural vanilla flavor.  Rice Protein is utilized more efficiently by the body than soy.

Now sports pea protein -Serving Size 1 Level Scoop (33 g) = 67 ml.
28 grams protein per 67 ml or 6.26 grams per tablespoonful.
NutriBiotic Vegan Vanilla Rice Protein – Serving size: 1 heaping tablespoonful (15 grams) = 20ml.  12 grams protein per 20ml or 9 grams per tablespoonful.
Serving size 33g (67 ml) Serving size 15ml
(one tbsp)
size 15g (20ml)
Serving size 15ml
(one tbsp)
Calories 130 29.1   60 45
Sugars 0 g 0 1 gram 0.75 grams
Protein 28 g 6.27 grams 12 grams 9 grams
AMINO ACIDs Mg of amino acids /serving Mg of amino acids /serving   Mg of amino acids /serving Mg of amino acids /serving Ideal ratio 50/50 Ratio of pea/rice protein.

Essential Amino Acids

L-Histidine 6660 148 270 mg 202 0.256 0.269
L-Isoleucine 1287 288 700 mg 525 0.513 0.625
L-Leucine 2244 502 1092 mg 797 1.0 1.0
L-Lysine 1980 443 614 mg 461 0.77 0.7
L-Methionine 264 59 276 mg 207 M
L-Phenylalanine 1419 318 526 mg 395 P+T
L-Threonine 1089 244 570 mg 428 0.38 0.51
L-Tryptophan 264 59 187 mg 140 0.102 0.153
L-Valine 1353 303 722 mg 542 0.66 0.65

Non-Essential Amino Acids

L-Alanine 1122 251 588 mg 441
L-Arginine 2376 532 818 mg 614
L-Aspartic Acid 35 8 1092 mg 819
L-Cysteine 594 133 288 mg 216
L-Glutamic Acid 4686 1049 2065 mg 1549
Glycine 1122 251 378 mg 284
L-Proline 1221 273 732 mg 549
L-Serine 1386 310 594 mg 446
L-Tyrosine 1023 229 492 mg 369
Protein Sources  (plant-based versus animal source)