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Picking Plant-Based Proteins

Did you know? Most plants are considered “incomplete proteins” because they lack all nine of the essential amino acids. However, there are a few unique plants that are considered “complete proteins.” Listed below are plant-based foods that are considered complete proteins.


The highest source of iron among all gluten-free grains, amaranth is a complete protein and can be made into flour or toasted much like popcorn.


An ancient cereal grain of Peru, quinoa cooks similar to rice but in half the time. This gluten-free grain contains healthy omega-3 and -6 fatty acids and is a complete protein.


Buckwheat is actually a seed and not a grain. Unroasted buckwheat groats have a soft, mild flavor, while the roasted variety has an earthy, nutty flavor. A complete protein, the triangular seeds are frequently made into flour and is the primary ingredient in Japanese soba noodles.


Chia seeds are complete proteins and the richest plant-based source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Because chia seeds can absorb more than twelve times their weight in water, they are often used to add fluffiness in baked goods and are also used to replace eggs in vegan products.


A seed that can be eaten raw, ground into a meal or sprouted, Hemp contains omega-3s and is high in gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a healthy omega-6 fatty acid. This seed is a complete protein and can be easily made into a vegan milk by blending raw hemp seeds and filtered water.


Soybeans (including edamame) and soy foods such as tofu, natto and tempeh are a complete protein. When choosing tofu, the firmer the tofu, the higher the protein content.


Spirulina is a blue-green algae that grows in oceans and salty lakes in subtropical climates. A complete protein, spirulina is sold in supplement form and can help boost the growth of gut-friendly bacteria in the intestinal system.

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