I wrote a post about the Science of rice and beans recently. I talked about how the two foods – rice and beans – complement each other in terms of the protein quality (essential amino acids composition).
There are many other food combinations like the rice and beans where the proteins complement each other. The most common food combinations that Nigerians eat:
- Grains (rice, corn, wheat, etc.) + legumes (peas, beans)
- Grains (corn, sorghum, millet, rice) and milk products
- Seeds (egusi, ogbono) + tubers (yam, rice, cassava, etc)
Should you be worried about protein quality of your other food combinations especially if you are eating mostly a plant based diet (no animal) and it is all that you can afford?
First, foods that contain animal protein take care of your protein needs (if eaten in the right quantities). All the essential amino acids (protein building blocks that your body cannot produce) will be met by animal protein foods.
For plant based diets however there is usually one limiting amino acids (too low in quantity in relation to human needs). Combining two or more plant proteins complement each other and can improve protein quality of your meal.
So, must you always find the right combos? No. As long as you are eating varied plant –based meals you are fine. The key word here though is variety. Also, if you are taken in enough calories in addition to eating a variety of plant based foods, you are likely to meet your protein needs. This means that you should not worry about incomplete proteins, complementing your proteins or browsing the internet to check the amino acid profile of your foods IF you are eating a variety of plant-based foods.
However, if you are not eating a variety of plant-based foods daily and regularly, then perhaps focusing on animal protein can meet your protein needs without stress.
For a variety of plant based meals, you can pick your choices from a wide selection of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts.
Is animal protein all that great? Yes if we are looking at protein quality and some other nutrients like Vitamin B12 , Zinc, DHA, Heme-Iron (better quality of iron than plant’s non-heme). Sometimes though, Animal proteins come to us in unattractive packages like saturated fats and high sodium (depending on how it is preserved or prepared). I will focus on animal proteins in another post.
So, if animal proteins like beef, fish, chicken, turkey, snail, crayfish are becoming too expensive for your pocket, don’t feel bad at all. Plant proteins are equally healthy, you just have to eat a variety of it to meet up with what your body needs.
You, however, cannot eat rice and beans, rice and moinmoin, porridge beans and drink pap and moinmoin every other day in a week and say that you are eating a variety of plant meals. What does a varied Nigerian plant based meal look like? Stay tuned.