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Do We Need to Combine Proteins?

by Nick
(North Carolina)

I have heard it said that when eaten together, that rice and beans form a complete protein. Is this nutritionally true? And if so, does this hold true for "processed" bean products, like tofu and tempeh? Any info you may have would be greatly appreciated.


Thank you for writing in and for the compliments. Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappe first wrote about protein combining and rocked the world with that concept. People started getting worried about vegetarianism because they thought there was a ton of work that would go into ensuring they got enough of the right protein. Others just plowed on with their lifestyle, and lo and behold, eventually we found out that protein combining wasn't necessary.

When Frances Lappe updated that book about 20 years later (sometime recently), she added that she found protein combining wasn't absolutely necessary, as long as you got those foods each day. But old fears and anxieties die hard, and this one still lives.

Some people still cling to the idea that you can't make complete proteins without combining foods, but I truly believe that if you are eating a healthy diet, you don't need to worry about protein in that manner. If I were you, I would check out her classic book to figure out where you stand on the matter.

The funny thing is that ancient peoples have been eating certain foods together for thousands of years, and they are often great compliments for each other nutritionally. Beans and rice are one of those foods, just like tomatoes and avocados (guacamole), even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and many other combinations. So, what I take from that is that beans and rice are great together, but I don't need to worry about combining the two all the time.

As long as you are eating a well-balanced diet full of vegetables, whole grains, beans, fruits, and nuts/seeds, you are going to get plenty of the proper nutrients each day. Try to eat from every color of the rainbow each day and you will definitely be getting exactly what your body needs.

I hope that helps!

Comments for Do We Need to Combine Proteins?

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combining other foods is okay?
by: Judy

Do vegans need to watch food combining? Example: never combine fruit with anything else?

Protein Combining
by: Nia

I never take this into consideration . I eat plenty of beans and other things but, I don't usually eat rice (preference). Every time I have my nutritional health tested by my doctor there is never any imbalance or deficiency. The only combining neccessary in a healthy diet is a variety of fruits and vegetables. Please don't let people complicate things for you, especially when they are this easy. Enjoy your healthy choice to be vegan!

Myth - all in one meal; Fact - within 4 hours
by: Anonymous

Essential proteins don't have to be combined in one meal: they should be balanced (combined) within 4 hours.

Combining Proteins
by: Anonymous

This is really helpful because I keep hearing about how we need to combine proteins. That's just another vegan myth!

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