We all know how important protein is to our overall health, but did you know that all proteins are not created equal? We have both complete proteins and incomplete proteins. Confused? So what’s the difference?

Complete proteins contain all eight essential amino acids our bodies need for basic health. We need to make sure to consume complete proteins in our daily diet because our bodies cannot make these essential amino acids. If a food is missing any one or more of these essential amino acids it becomes, a, well, “incomplete” protein.

Protein benefits

Protein plays a vital role in our bodies. A diet rich in protein can help your body grow and maintain healthy tissue. Protein can also help repair and assist in the production of new cells and produce antibodies to fight infections.

How do you get protein?

Most complete proteins come from animal sources including red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy.  Some meat-free complete protein sources are soybeans, chia seeds and quinoa. You can also combine meat-free proteins like beans, lentils and peanuts with grains like wheat, rice and corn to create a complete protein – think peanut butter on wheat toast, pita with hummus, or beans and rice. They do not even need to be consumed in the same meal. You can have lentil soup for lunch and whole wheat pasta for dinner, and you will have consumed the necessary essential amino acids to form the complete protein your body needs.

How much protein do you need?

The RDA for proteins is derived by dividing your body weight in pounds by 2.2, in order to calculate your weight in kilograms; then multiply that number by 0.8 to discover the amount of grams of protein your body needs each day. Find out more about the protein contents of various foods.

So, complete proteins aren’t as complex as you might have thought after all. For most people, even vegetarians, simply eating a varied diet of healthy foods will provide you with the protein your body needs to stay strong and healthy.