Recipes, memories and random thoughts from my kitchen
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Complementary Protein 101
We all know that we need quality protein in our main meals (and I have noticed that meals low in protein don’t “stay with” one as long), but not everyone realizes that this protein need not come from meat. Combining other foods -- either milk/dairy foods and grains OR legumes and grains -- will also produce high-quality proteins. I’m going to attempt to give you a mini-course in complementary protein that may be a help to some of the frugal cooks out there. I must hasten to add that I am neither a scientist nor a nutritionist, but I can only share what I’ve read and what has worked for our family.
I’m going to start by quoting some helpful information concerning protein from the MORE-WITH-LESS COOKBOOK, by Doris Janzen Longacre. I appreciate the way she has brought this technical information down to where ordinary people can understand it. She writes:
“Twenty amino acids make up the proteins our bodies use. Of these twenty, eight must come directly from the food we eat. These eight are called the essential amino acids. The rest our bodies can synthesize.
“All the essential amino acids must be present simultaneously and in proper proportions for our bodies to utilize them. If one is lacking, even temporarily, the body’s ability to use protein will fall accordingly.
“Complete protein foods contain all eight essential amino acids. Animal products -- eggs, milk, and meat -- provide all eight amino acids in the proportions our bodies require. Eggs most nearly match the ideal pattern. Milk is a close second, and meats follow. Soybeans and whole rice come close to meats in protein quality. Other grains, the legumes, seeds, and nuts are also good sources of protein, but each lacks one or more of the essential amino acids.”
And so these good, but not-quite-good-enough-on-their-own protein foods can be combined to make great sources of protein. For complementary protein, remember this simple formula: Milk products should always be served with grains; legumes should always be served with grains.
Here are some examples of the milk-grain combinations:
Cereal with milk
Macaroni & cheese
Corn chowder (or any milk-based soup) served with bread or muffins
Greek spinach pie
And here are some examples of legume-grain combinations:
Peanut butter sandwiches
Lentil or split-pea soup with cornbread (or any other bread)
Baked beans with brown bread or cornbread
Lentil-based taco filling in taco shells
Pinto beans with rice
No doubt you will think of more of your favorite foods that actually fall into the category of complementary protein. Later this week I’ll try and share some of our favorite recipes for this type of main course. In the meantime, I hope that this information, elementary as it is, may be a help to someone out there!
I live in scenic northern New England with my handsome husband. We're empty-nesters with a bunch of adorable grandchildren. We love (tent) camping and traveling, but don't get away as often as we'd like to.