Interesting Vegetarian Protein Combinations

The first version of my protein calculator is now done! Choose any protein source and it tells you all about it in gory detail AND recommends a good complimentary food! Please give it a try and let me know any suggestions or bugs you find in the protein calculator.

Interesting Vegetarian Protein Combinations

“Beans and rice” is what you always hear people say makes a “complete protein”, well my software begs to differ. My calculator claims that the best complimentary food for virtually all beans is sesame because it has so much methionine per calorie. The best complimentary food for black beans, defatted soy meal, and chickpeas are all listed as lowfat sesame flour. Its odd because I have never seen these combinations listed before, anyone know why?

It also appears that cauliflower is a big favorite of my protein calculator as a complimentary food because it has a *lot* of lysine per calorie. Cauliflower is listed as the best complimentary food for many grains and nuts like brown rice, quinoa and dry roasted peanuts. Again, I have never heard of these food combinations, who can tell me why?

The best complimentary food for lowfat yougurt my protein calculator says is spinach to make up for the tryptophan deficiency in the yogurt. Again, thats a combo I havent heard of.

Nutritionists, doctors, vegans and vegetarians what do you say to this? If you disagree with my protein calculator, why? I do acknowledge that the food pairing in this first version is not 100% optimal because I only look at the one single essential amino acid that is in shortest supply and then find a complimentary food that is high in that essential amino acid. Obviously, that is not perfect, it would be much better to look at *all* essential amino acids that are in relative short supply in the target food and then search the database for the food that can supply the missing essential amino acid quantities with a minimum of calories. For example, if you look at the protein quality of soy protein concentrate, you see that compared to chicken breast, its lacking most in methionine but also lacking in lysine. Since my software currently only looks at the shortage of methionine it chooses low fat sesame flour as the best complimentary food which fixes the methionine but still leaves a 12% deficit in the lysine. In my next revision, I will improve the algorithm significantly by looking at the lagging three essential amino acids rather than just looking at one.

on a related note ….

34 thoughts on “Interesting Vegetarian Protein Combinations”

  1. Your protein calculator is a nice application. It’s main shortcoming, that it only pairs on one variable, isn’t that much of a problem: Just keep your horizon sufficiently far away in the future!

    I advice patients to eat enough protein in order to recover from surgery. They have to look for proper combinations of nutrients, not in a single meal, but in the course of a week or so. Enough protein in every meal because you can’t store very much, but it does take time for your liver to synthesise them.
    Don’t try to capture the entire food pyramid in one meal! It won’t be a nice meal…

  2. Dear Mr. Scooby,

    I LOVE your website and thank you for all the free information. But, can you please make me a carb cycling meal an for a lacto-ovo vegetarian? I am a 26 years old female, 4’11 and I weight 135lb. I exercise about 5-6 hours per week at a moderate rate and I eat 5-6 meals per day. I would really love for my 4 pack to be more defined and maybe turn it into a 6 pack.

    Thank You So Much!

  3. Hi Scooby! Thanks a lot for the effort you´re putting into this! As a guy who avoid meats this is really helpful, and the fact that you are sharing it for free is just amazing! I have a lot of respect for you man!

  4. You guys are totally overkilling it here, it really doesn’t matter how “good” your protein is.. The body is not that precise! As long as you eat healthy food with protein, carbs etc. AND excercise regulary, you’ll be fine. Stop complicating things.

    1. you do realize that this is a compulsion of the bodybuilding community that isn’t going away… the whole point is to find what works and continually try to optimize… to simply accept a truth in any aspect of life as the best option is to assume mediocrity and no self respecting bodybuilder wants to just have average results ever if they don’t compete with others like myself I’m constantly competing with myself. (I’m not a vegetarian but this tool makes it seem like allot of fun to give it a whirl btw awesome job Scooby)

  5. Yoko Joséphine Matsui

    I would venture to say no nutritionists nor vegetarians are serious enough to find best matching plant based protein consumption till now. But you know, Japanese love to eat natto or fermented soy bean with soy sauce. And Indians have plenty of dishes with yogurt and spinach. So I assume it’s just Westerners who didn’t know… Don’t be arrogant, the world is bigger than you whities ever know, LOL! Anyway, I’m glad brown rice and quinoa is best protein combo. It’s my most favorite carb and I make rice balls every day with these as my bento (lunch)! Thanks or Arigato from Tokyo!

  6. Hi Scooby,
    I’m one of your fan and I am also a Food Technologist. I think your proteins calculator is a very interesting tool to find the best souce of proteins. Can I suggest you to keep in mind the glycemic index and suggest you to have a look at the glicemic index list wich is very interesting because it gives a complete list of food that increase the glycemic body responce. Some good source of proteins have the disadvantage to have an high glicemic index (i.e.:rice) and the body transform the exeed carbohydrates into fat.

  7. Ilie-Cristian Dumitru

    Wow, Scooby! You’ve made really good progress in a very short amount of time….this is close to unbelievable. I have one suggestion though, i think it would make it much more clearer and avoid any confusion for the average user if in those top 100 lists and in the complementary food tables that show the best 20 plant and animal sources in the protein calculator that you specify that the quantity of the lacking AA is per gram of protein of one food source as i think it is, because at present it really isn’t that evident.

  8. Hi, Scooby this is great but. Black Beans, Soy, Chickpeas, and Quinoa are all considered “Complete Proteins”, so I don’t see any advantage of combining them anyway.

    I have come across using cauliflower in bread recipes before as it compliments the protein in wheat flour.

    I like the Yogurt and Spinach combo too, sounds tasty.

    1. With their low value of the essential amino acid methionine (a common trait of all beans) I don’t know how someone can call black beans a “complete protein”. I’d definitely recommend combining your intake of beans with some other protein source rich in methionine.

      1. Well it really raises the question of what is a “Complete Protein”, if you go by the definition on Nutrition Data, then a complete protein should have 25mg/g of Methionine+Cystine. By their definition Black beans have 15mg/g of Methionine, and 10mg/g of Cystine. But all of that is nonsense, because that protein profile is irrelevant, the only relevant protein profile is the protein profile of chicken breast, right?

        1. Yoko Joséphine Matsui

          I’m not really sure what complete protein is… Does that matter? If so, then just eat chicken breast! And then, nobody lives just on black beans or soy beans or chicken. We need to eat variety of food. I believe in complete meals but not really in complete protein… Scooby is trying to offer ideas to vegetarians and vegetarian wannabees. If you can live just on black beans, that’s fine. But that’s gonna be really boring life…

          1. Don’t be silly, of course you cannot live on just black beans alone, and yes you should be eating complete meals with a variety of food. My question is how scientific do you need to be about selecting your complimentary foods. Should you base your food selection on macros alone? on micro nutrients? or just use so called common sense?

          2. Yoko Joséphine Matsui

            Oh I got it, I’m sorry. I guess in the first phase, we need to rigidly count calories and follow traditional macros. Then we have to ask what is good macro but let’s just use the one recommended by certified nutritionists in your country. And then you can move on to try your favorite macro that works for you. But now I don’t really count calories or macros anymore. my eyes know how much and what to eat. I like traditional Japanese food and I use Japanese common sense for food selection. There’s no science in it, just history and experience. For contest prep, I sometimes thoroughly check calories and macros but not always. So for those who are obese or too skinny now, they need to start counting calories and check macros. But when you’re experienced, I would recommend to follow your instinct, not science. You may not know but I’m appointed as a Queen of ‘Bro’ or ‘Sista’ science by Scooby. My Sista science works well. I just won a contest. I think I will more in this year. Hope this answers your question.

        2. You are right, I was too swift and absolute in my dismissal of black beans as a “complete protein” and worded it too strongly. They can be considered a “complete protein”. Mea culpa. I’ll assume Nutrition Data goes by the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations, which are similar to the the FAO/WHO/UNU data, to reach their “complete protein” profile. In that case black beans reach the methionine requirement of 15mg/g (not sure why Nutrition Data didn’t individualize Methionine but possibly because Cysteine is only a semi-essential amino acid since it can be synthetized in the presence of enough Methionine). I wouldn’t dare call it nonsense or irrelevant since I have no reason to doubt these prestigious organizations but I wouldn’t take it as gospel since the methionine requirements have been raised since the last recommendations in 1985 and black beans just barely make the cut off now, there’s very little margin of error there. In short, the amount of methionine is still very low, grazing the absolute minimum mg/g of protein amino acid requirements so I do still recommend to combine black beans with a protein source richer in methionine.

          Also, taking the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation as completely accurate, I’d suggest that another good reason for a combination would be to maximize amino acid efficiency (in other words, to get the meal closer to the exact proportions of the amino acid requirements as to minimize waste). In that case adding some oat bran, for example, would help a lot and with the added benefit of lowering the calories of the meal since it’d be a more efficient one (good for people trying to lose weight while keeping protein intake high).

          1. I play devils advocate calling it irrelevant, since scoobys protein profiler doesn’t use that and instead uses a baseline comparison against chicken.

  9. While the combos seem odd at first glance a common staple in middle eastern food is Hummous (chick peas with sesame paste and olive oil and lemon plus seasoning) Tahini is not fat free – per 30g you get 3g of sat fat and 18g of Fat and 7.4g protein. I have personally never seen defatted sesame powder. How do they defat it?

    Thanks for sharing your calculator! Very appreciated , among your other ideas! Peace from Vancouver Island.

  10. not totally like your combo, but close:

    hummus is chickpeas with ground sesame (tahini)

    In Japan, sesame seeds, or ground sesame seed dressing is used with a lot of soybean and soy dishes.

    also, you can get cauliflower + quinoa combos at a lot of health food restaurants

  11. Your calculator seems to be perfectly right Scooby :) My favourite vegetarian cuisine called hummus is made of chickpeas paste + sesame paste (tahini) mixed with green lemon juice, garlic, pepper and whatever else matches your flavour. I’m a non-meat eater myself and i can tell you this thing gives much energry. I also drink yerba mate with that. Cheers! Thanks for inspirations and guidance

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