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Myth 2: Protein Combining

Claudia who writes at Mesmereyed asks:

My main concerns right now are about protein.  I know that you are supposed to be able to mix some beans with rice or something to make perfect proteins, but this all confuses me.  Can you do a blog post about that?  That would help me enormously in putting my meals together.

I have a friend who’s been vegetarian over ten years now, who was the Australian champion for heavy weight lifting in his class. He’s now nearly 60 and still lifting 80% of his champion load. He says that vegetarianism has been an advantage for his sport, which says a lot as it is one of the most protein stressful activities known to man. He still works as a personal trainer and looks buff as.

In his earlier years of vegetarianism Brad would have faced questions about “protein combining”. While one meaty meal might contain a complete protein (all the essential amino acids), vegetable sources were thought to be incomplete. Many new vegetarians are still faced with the myth that in each meal a vegetarian must source a complete protein with all the essential amino acids from a combination of foods.

But today’s nutritionists, and yesterday’s too if they kept up with research after graduation, know that mealtime protein combining is absolutely not necessary. Our intelligent vegetarian bodies actually store and combine amino acid create their own complete proteins, which is why Brad never had an issue despite his extremely taxing He-Man activities. Like everyone else, we just need to eat a variety of nutritious foods.

Even if the protein combining myth were true, there are several healthy and environmentally friendly plant foods that provide complete protein. Soy and Quinoa (“Keenwa”) are prominent examples. Although meat contains a complete protein- if someone eats mostly meat for their protein they are reducing their health and lifespan.  (And the health of the planet’s ecosystem and thus the lifespan of human civilisation! But that’s another article…)

More detailed information:

(Oh, and I haven’t yet written ‘Myth 1’ but first place is reserved for the protein myth in general. Here’s a less prevalent myth that a few people are still being fed by “historical nutritionists”.)

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  1. Thanks for all this information! It’s definitely helping me. Most days I feel like I’m walking in the dark, but I’m eating the best that I can. What I’m trying very hard not to do is substitute carbs for my proteins.

  2. Hi Claudia. I’m really happy it’s working for you :) Really I wouldn’t worry too much… I feel that there’s no ‘in the dark’ for vegetarians. It’s just too easy. I don’t even eat that much nowadays and easily maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass. I’m about to put this to the test with 6 12 hour days a week (opening restaurant!!!).

    I think some people try to scare new vegetarians about things like protein and iron – which are not concerns at all for anyone with a healthy colourful (minus the red, of course) diet. As far as I know, the only genuine concern for anyone is for vegans: B12. Having been vegan for one year, I’m still researching that one as I find it hard to believe my body needs something I can’t get from any animal product. One possible source is simply food with a certain amount of bacteria in it.

    Much love!