Inferior proteins: how to use them in a balanced diet
Incomplete proteins are no less healthy than complete proteins. In fact, the opposite may be true.
Incomplete proteins come from plant-based foods, which are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. “When looking at protein, it’s important to look at the whole protein package. If you’re not taking amino acid supplements, such as branched-chain amino acids, you’re getting a lot more than just protein in your diet,” says Nicole Dandrea-Russert, MS, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and author The effect of fiber.
“As long as they are whole plant foods (unprocessed or minimally processed), we can be sure that these foods are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber without saturated fat,” Guest says.
Dandrea-Russert explains that plant-based proteins contain fiber and phytochemicals that have been shown to support health, from the brain to the gut to the heart. “Both fiber and certain phytochemicals have been shown to reduce inflammation, while compounds in meat, such as antibiotics, dioxins stored in animal fat, and heterocyclic amines (carcinogenic compounds produced when meat is cooked) promote inflammation4.”
“By focusing on a variety of plant proteins, you will too helping the gut microbiome5adds Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD. The American Intestinal Society found that people who regularly eat more than 30 different plant-based foods per week have a more diverse microbiome than those who eat 10 or less5.
However, Guest notes that whole proteins may have the advantage of having greater mineral bioavailability. You absorb minerals like iron and zinc when you eat meat than you do from plant foods.
After all, amino acids are amino acids. If you eat an exclusively plant-based diet, you may need to eat larger portions to meet your protein needs, says leading amino acid researcher Don Layman, Ph.D. “It’s quite normal [to be vegan or vegetarian]but you’ll always need more total protein, which means the total calories will be equivalent,” he previously explained on the mindbodygreen podcast.
By including plenty of plant-based protein in your diet, you can reach your protein goals and improve yours general health and longevity6.