Protein Fact Sheet

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Quality and Complete Proteins

Protein Image courtesy of KEKO64 at

Image courtesy of radnatt at


Good quality proteins are those that are easily digested and contain all the essential amino acids in correct proportions necessary for human requirements.

There are 20 primary amino acids, 9 of which our body is unable to make (12 in children). These are considered “essential” and so must come from our diet.

All sources of protein will contain some or all of the 9 essential amino acids. If it contains all it is called a “complete” protein, but if it is deficient in one or more essential amino acid, it is called an “incomplete” protein.

Grains are typically low in the amino acid lysine, whereas legumes (pulses) are typically low in methionine.

Even in a complete protein the ratio of essential amino acids will determine whether it is a high quality protein or not. The body needs a certain proportion of essential amino acids in the protein for it to be used most effectively. If one essential amino acid is present, but only in small amounts, then it is a poorer quality complete protein.

There is a school of thought that suggests we don’t need to eat complete proteins in the same meal. This may be so, but for the benefits of sustained energy and stabilised blood sugar levels, I believe they should be. I also recommend having quality protein at every meal and snack to stabilise energy levels throughout the day.





The highest quality complete protein available is an egg. They have all 9 essential amino acids in its protein and the ratios of these amino acids are very similar to the ideal protein needed by the body.

 Omelette Image courtesy of Apolonia at

Image courtesy of Apolonia at


Meat is another high quality complete protein containing between 25 – 36gms per 100gm of protein. If it is organic it should not contain any chemical residue from pesticides or herbicides which are normally stored in animal fat. Avoid “smoked”, “cured” or processed meats such as; bacon, ham, salami, brawn, pastrami, turkey or chicken roll. These contain nitrates, nitrites and other preservatives. These are potential carcinogens (ie; cancer causing), so really should be avoided.

Roast Meat Image courtesy of radnatt at

Image courtesy of radnatt at



Low-mercury fish (such as wild caught Atlantic salmon) is another great high quality complete protein. Avoid too much tuna (high in mercury), prawns (the vacuum cleaners of the water!) and frozen fish fillets or seafood extender often found in Sushi (the orange coloured seafood sticks).

Smoked Salmon Image courtesy of tiramisustudio at

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio at



Organic “live”, unsweetened, yoghurt is a high quality complete protein and even better it is fermented which means it helps the gut grow healthy organisms known as gut flora. A cup contains about 24gms of protein.

Parmesan cheese is also a good quality complete protein.

Other cheeses such as ricotta and cheddar are not so high in quality complete protein.

Yoghurt Image courtesy of Mister GC at

Image courtesy of Mister GC at



Made from fermented soy bean curd, tempeh is a good quality complete protein. It is better than tofu as it has been fermented and there is some concern about the excessive use of soy and the phyto-estrogen content.

Tofu Image courtesy of nipitphand at

Image courtesy of nipitphand at



A good quality complete protein that isn’t from an animal. Actually a seed rather than a grain they can be combined with pulses or grains to enhance their protein content.


Legumes combined with whole grains

When legumes are combined with whole grains you get a good quality complete protein meal. For example; couscous or rice with adzuki beans, millet with lentils, black-eyed peas with brown rice or lentils and rice, chickpeas (humous) and rice or corn crackers, will provide complete protein. If you think of vegetarian Mexican or Indian food, you’re on the right track.

Pulses and Beans Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at


Nori and other seaweeds

Sea vegetables are a good source of protein, although not complete on their own. Add it to grains or pulses (legumes) to balance the essential amino acids and make it complete. Seaweeds are very high in iron, calcium, magnesium and iodine. A great super food.

Sushi seaweed Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at


Nuts and seeds

Healthy nuts include; almonds (especially if they’re soaked overnight), walnuts, cashews, macadamias, Brazil nuts and pecans. Peanuts are not a nut; they’re a legume (like chickpeas). Nut butters are a great source of protein and when had on bread or rice cakes, they’re a good quality complete protein. Some nuts do contain all essential amino acids, but they’re considered lower quality as they have low levels of one or more amino acid. Seeds are also great, especially when combined with grains. For a tasty snack try roasting some nuts with Tamari (wheat and gluten free Japanese soy sauce) then add some seeds such as pepita’s or sunflower seeds and maybe even some coconut and sultana’s. This combination should give enough essential amino acids to make it a good quality complete protein.

Nuts Image courtesy of Mister GC at

Image courtesy of Mister GC at



Sprouts from lentils, alfalfa, mung beans, soy beans and chick peas (and many more) are a powerhouse of nutrients and protein. Some contain up to 10mg of protein per cup. They are also full of other nutrients including; chlorophyll, iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and C. They are also rich in B vitamins including folic acid. By sprouting a seed or grain the nutrient value is magnified making sprouts more nutrient dense per calorie than any other food.


Image courtesy of voraorn at

2 thoughts on “Protein Fact Sheet

    Helen Rubeli said:
    April 8, 2016 at 4:34 am

    Thanks Sophie,this is excellent info and a good reminder of options for vegetarians.

    Anuradha Mukherjee said:
    March 7, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Very informative. Thanks for the share.

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