The Ecology of Humans (51-1) Complete & Complementary Proteins

 Complete & Complementary Proteins

Organisms are chock full of proteins, which are complex macromolecules made up of amino acids. The human body uses 20 different amino acids to construct its proteins, though not every protein uses all 20 amino acids.

As a seed is an embryonic organism, seeds are protein rich. Not all seed proteins offer all of the 20 amino acids that humans need. From a nutritional standpoint, that is unimportant. The necessary amino acids to construct a protein need not be freshly consumed.

With notable exception, the human body or microbiome can convert most amino acids from one type to another. There are 9 essential amino acids that the body cannot synthesize de novo. These must be supplied in the diet.

Eating a variety of natural foods guarantees that adequate protein building blocks are available. Yet there is a dietary technique that makes getting the right amino acids in proportion easy; one that has been appreciated since prehistoric times. A complete protein is a food that that contains all 9 essential amino acids in a proportion that the body readily appreciates.

As flesh feeds flesh, animal foods often offer complete protein, albeit at the cost of being generally bad for one’s health.

Though a few vegan foods, such as quinoa, have complete protein, the amino acid contents of plant foods tend to be unbalanced from the perspective of human nutrition needs. This imbalance is easily overcome. Caryopses and pulses eaten together offer a complete protein. The combination of two such foods is called complementary proteins.

As the body naturally craves what it lacks, traditional cuisines are rife with complementary proteins. The classic version of this is rice and beans; the Mexican version is maize and beans.