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by Tanya Kweiz •


Understanding complementary proteins

Amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein, as proteins are essentially long chains of amino acids joined together. The body needs 20 different amino acids to function correctly, they all have similar structures but are differentiated by their side chains. There are thousands of different proteins in the human body and each protein is unique because it has its own sequence of amino acids. This sequence means that each protein is a different shape and consequently has a different function. A simple way of understanding the complex nature of amino acids is by thinking of them as letters of the alphabet. When letters are combined in different ways, you create different words. When amino acids are combined in various ways, we create different proteins. When a food that contains protein is consumed, the digestive system breaks this down into amino acids that are absorbed into the bloodstream. From there, amino acids are utilised to make the proteins that help to form the bodies tissues, muscles, and organs.   What are complementary proteins? The human body makes hundreds of amino acids, however there are nine essential amino acids needed that it cannot make, and we therefore absolutely need to obtain them from the diet. Some foods contain all essential amino acids (termed a complete protein) while others are missing some or have low amounts of these nine essential ones (termed incomplete proteins). Incomplete proteins are more commonly found in plant-based food sources of protein, such as lentils, legumes, and cereals. Eating 2 or more of these incomplete proteins together forms a complementary protein, a protein that will then contain all the essential amino acids required by the body in sufficient amounts. For those who follow a plant-based or vegan diet, complementary proteins become a crucial part of guaranteeing that daily protein intakes are adequate. The good news is that it is simple for vegan individuals to reach the desired levels of amino acids if the diet is varied. Complementary proteins don’t need to be eaten at every meal, if a variety of protein foods are consumed over the course of a day, the body will be provided with all its amino acid requirements (1, 2).   Suggested combinations of complementary proteins include: Grains and Legumes • Bean soup and crackers • Pasta and peas • Black beans and rice • Whole wheat bread and peanut butter Nuts and Seeds Plus Legumes • Hummus (chickpeas and tahini) • Roasted nuts, seeds, and peanuts. • Lentils and almonds   Plant-Based Complete Proteins For those who are plant-based, all nine essential amino acids can be found in complete protein plant foods such as: soy (served as edamame, tempeh, tofu, soy milk), quinoa, amaranth, hemp seed, and chia so adding any of these foods, along with combining your other protein sources, will help you get all your essential amino acids met every day.   Product Highlight: Activated Nutrients coconut flavoured, plant-based protein powder contains all essential amino acids combined with specific probiotics to support muscle toning and weight management. Sprouted and bio fermented golden pea, sacha inchi, quinoa and amaranth, prove a complete amino acid profile which helps to increase dietary protein intake and feelings of fullness, and support muscle growth, while digestive enzymes and probiotics work together to support gut health and healthy weight management.   References: 1. Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian diets, 2003, Journal of the American Dietetic Association; 103;748–765. 2. Marsh KA, Munn EA, Baines SK. Protein, and vegetarian diets. Med J Aust. 2013;199(4 Suppl): S7-S10