Complete Protein Foods

The nutrient, protein, is essential for human life. This micronutrient yields energy and is required each day in larger amounts compared to minerals and vitamins. Some of the functions of protein include formation of cells, body muscles and tissues. The protein building-blocks called amino acids are used in the manufacture of enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Foods that offer complete protein are those that provide the 9 vital amino acids. Some of these amino acids can be obtained via dietary sources.

Complete Protein vs. Incomplete Protein

  • Complete protein. This is protein that contains all essential amino acids, which are a must have in your diet.
  • Incomplete protein. This protein does not contain all essential amino acids. It can either be lacking one or many amino acids (essential) and is therefore referred to as a partial or incomplete protein.
  • Recommended daily protein intake. For adults, the daily recommended protein intake is 0.36g per body weight pound. In translation, a man weighing 180lb will have to take 64g of protein. Research has shown that people looking to build some muscles can take about 0.8 to 1.0 grams per lb.

Complete Protein Foods

1. Poultry, meat and fish

Animal foods like game meats, red meat, poultry, fish and pork are some of the sources of complete proteins. Some examples of red meat are round steak eye, beef tenderloin and sirloin or ground round. Game meats are leaner compared to cattle meat and they include venison, buffalo or bison meat. Pork products include ham, pork tenderloin and pork chops (center-cut). Poultry include chicken parts, duck or turkey breast and fish include scallops, shrimp, tuna, clams, salmon, whitefish, halibut, swordfish and cod.

2. Eggs and dairy products

Foods derived from animals contain complete proteins. Eggs are also great sources of protein, more so the white part of an egg. An egg is said to have about six to seven grams of protein, but this depends on the size of the egg. also stated that yoghurt, milk and cheese are complete and an oz of American, Brie, cheddar, hard goat, bleu, Monterey and Swiss cheese contain about 7 grams of protein.

3. Vegan foods

Fortunately, for those of you who are vegans, there are foods that are plant-based and are known to contain complete proteins. Such plants include quinoa, soy products and whole grain that is protein-rich. Other foods include tempeh, miso, soy milk, edamame and tofu or even green soybeans (fresh).

4. Combining incomplete protein

When you combine incomplete proteins (can be 2 or more), you can create a complete protein. This is because the missing amino acid can be compensated for when you add a protein containing the missing amino acid. When you eat the food combination in one meal, your body will have acquired all essential amino acids. The proteins that are used to compensate the missing proteins are considered to be complementary proteins.

Examples of complementary or combined proteins:

The following foods are the ones that can be combined to make complete protein along with some sample meals you can make from them:

  • Seeds with legumes. Sample meal: Spinach salad with almond dressing and sesame seeds.
  • Dairy with some seeds. Sample meal: Yoghurt mixed with almond salad and sesame seeds.
  • Legumes with grains. Sample meal: rice and lentil with some yellow pepper.
  • Diary with grains. Sample meal: Pasta (whole-wheat) and white cheddar.

For more examples of high-complete-protein foods, see the following chart:

Foods highest in complete protein


complete protein value (per 100g)

Chicken breast






Pork Loin


Lean beef & Veal


Seeds and Nuts








Soymilk, Milk and Yoghurt


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