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Is your plant-based protein complete?

Whether you’re looking to become more plant-based for health reasons, environmental reasons or because of current meat shortages, picking the right protein sources can be tricky. As a dietitian, I recommend plant-based proteins that are complete or nearly complete, meaning they have all nine essential amino acids. These amino acids are ones that your body cannot make itself, so it must come from food sources. Getting in a variety of different plant-based proteins ensures that you are covering your essential amino acid needs.

Check out my picks below for complete or nearly complete protein sources:

1. Quinoa: in addition to being a complete protein, quinoa offers a nice amount of magnesium, iron, fiber and zinc. Use in place of rice or simmer with plant-based milk for an alternative to oatmeal!

2. Edamame: ½ cup of these whole soybeans offer as much protein as an egg (8 g!) and a good amount of calcium, iron and fiber.

3. Hemp seeds/hemp hearts: one of my favorites! A complete protein source that also offers omega-3 fatty acids which is great for heart health. It’s slightly nutty flavor is versatile enough to sprinkle on salads, top oatmeal bowls or add to smoothies.

4. Nutritional yeast: ¼ cup of these yellow flakes offer 8 grams of complete protein as well more than the daily recommended amount of vitamin B-12 for adults. It adds a cheesy flavor to pasta dishes and is so good on top of popcorn.

5. Lentils + rice: lentils on their own lack certain essential amino acids, but overall provide a hefty amount of plant-based protein per serving (and iron!). By pairing with rice, you can get the aminos that lentils are lacking and have a delicious meal that is a complete protein source.

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