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Eating enough protein daily is important for your overall health. Protein is necessary for critical processes such as immune function, cellular processes, cell structure, and growth, among others. Therefore, it’s essential to consume enough protein on a daily basis.

You can get protein from both plants and animals. Some people claim that the source of the protein, whether animal or plant, doesn’t matter. Others suggest that one type of protein is superior to the other. It all comes down to their amino acid content.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. The human body uses about 20 different amino acids to build protein. Your body can make some amino acids itself, but you have to get nine of them, known as essential amino acids, through your diet. Protein sources can vary greatly in the types of amino acids they contain.

Let’s take a closer look. Generally, animal proteins are known as "complete" proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids. However, most animal proteins are also higher in saturated fat. While some plant proteins, including pea protein and soybeans, are also "complete" protein sources, many other plant foods are considered incomplete proteins. This means plant foods such as beans, peanuts, and wheat, are rich in total protein but lack one or more of the essential amino acids. Still, you can easily combine these "incomplete" plant protein sources to meet your body’s needs. Combining a whole grain with a legume you will acquire all 9 essential amino acids.

Suggested combinations:

1 - Rice and beans

2 - Tortilla and black beans

3 - Peanut butter and wheat bread

4 - Brown rice and Lima beans

Plant proteins are all low or free of saturated fat, as well as low in calories, which makes them a healthy, nutritious choice. It’s important that people eating a vegetarian or vegan diet enjoy a variety of plant protein combinations to ensure they’re getting all the essential amino acids.

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