There are millions of different types of protein and each is designed for a specific purpose. When protein (from chicken, beef, fish, eggs, etc.) is ingested, the body must alter it by breaking it down into smaller units known as amino acids. This allows the body to prioritize the distribution of amino acids to sustain life. The body must then rearrange the amino acids into the proper sequence in order to form the necessary protein.
Foods containing protein may or may not provide all of the essential amino acids. Foods derived from animal sources naturally contain all of the essential amino acids in adequate amounts and are therefore referred to as complete proteins. Vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts generally do not have all of the essential amino acids in adequate amounts and are referred to as incomplete proteins.
For years, researchers concluded that vegetarians could easily become protein deficient unless each meal provided a balance of amino acids. Current studies continue to indicate that the body must receive sufficient amounts of the essential amino acids in order to sustain life.
It is now known that protein requirements in vegetarian diets can be safely obtained through a combination of complementary plant proteins that produce the necessary amino acid balance. Proper amino acid balance can be achieved by combining foods from two or more of the following columns: