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Is Your Body Getting the Complete Protein It Needs?

What makes a protein “complete?” Well, it must contain an adequate amount of the nine essential amino acids our bodies need from food to build and repair muscle. Most foods that meet this standard are animal foods (meats, eggs, dairy, and fish), although a few plant foods are complete protein sources, like quinoa and chia seeds. Since those on plant-based diets probably don’t want to eat quinoa and chia seeds every meal, some have turned to planning meals with complementary protein sources: two or more foods that, together, contain the full set of essential amino acids. Those of us who aren’t so organized can rest assured that our bodies have complex mechanisms for keeping the right amounts of necessary amino acids available to our cells and tissues. This means the best way to ensure your body gets all the amino acids it needs is to eat a variety of protein-rich foods throughout the day, especially if your diet is strictly plant-based. If you’re at a loss for which foods to eat, check out these well-balanced snacks and mini-meals shared in TIME:

  • Prepared oats with shredded kale or zucchini, sliced fresh fruit, and nuts or seeds.
  • Cooked and chilled quinoa layered with hummus and eaten with raw vegetables.
  • Nut butter mixed with fruit and rolled oats or toasted quinoa, formed into balls and covered with chia seeds.
  • Garden salad topped with cooked and chilled black beans and wild rice.
  • Buckwheat soba noodles and veggies tossed with almond butter, ginger, garlic, and chili pepper.
  • Lentil or veggie soup garnished with chopped pecans or walnuts.
  • Fruit and veggie smoothies with chickpea flour and sprouted pumpkin seeds thrown in.
  • Oven-roasted veggies with tahini or pesto.

Source: TIME

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