Thursday, May 23, 2024

Complementary Proteins


I got interested in combining plant foods to make complete protein right after leaving the work force to become a fulltime mom. Our new baby and a single income forced me to look for ways to feed our family less expensively and still get the best nutrition possible.

I found that wheat, oats or rice plus beans, peas or peanuts gave complete protein; sunflower seeds, sesame seed or tree nuts combined with beans or peas gave complete protein and, my personal favorite combination for protein, potatoes plus milk will give complete protein.

Why is protein important? Because our bodies use proteins as building blocks. We get those building blocks from our food. This gift we call a body can recycle animal amino acids and plant amino acids into new protein forms to repair and maintain itself. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins just as proteins are building blocks for our bodies. Through the magic of digestion and metabolism our wondrous bodies build proteins out of amino acids.

Some amino acids our bodies can easily make, some we must eat already made. The amino acids we can’t make must come ready-made into our diet and they are called ‘essential amino acids.’ As I was studying in my youth there were ten essential amino acids and ten non-essential amino acids. I’m not sure where the scientific community stands today. Some say eight, some say nine, I’m not so savvy so I figure if I go with the ten my family will get all the ‘essentials’. Meat and eggs have all the amino acids our bodies can’t make, as such they are called ‘complete proteins’. Plants foods have amino acids also, but most do not have all the required ‘essential’ ones. By pairing up plant foods that complement each other’s deficiencies towards building complete protein I was able to use less meat and still keep our family healthy. This is called mutual supplementation for protein or using complementary proteins. All it means is that I am using an age-old method for feeding my family vegetable combinations that will allow our bodies to maintain and repair themselves even if I don’t have meat or eggs to offer. Most cooks come up with these food combinations spontaneously. I figure it’s because they taste so delicious together.

Mutual Supplementation for Protein

Potatoes plus Milk equal complete protein.

Seeds (sunflower, sesame, tree nuts) + Legumes = complete protein.

Bread (grain) + Seeds (sunflower, sesame, tree nuts) = complete protein.

Grains (like wheat, oats, rice) + Legumes (like beans, peas, peanuts) = complete protein.

Sautéed Green Beans with Sunflower Seeds

1 15 oz. can of green beans (I prefer French cut for this recipe) drained

2 Tablespoons butter, oil, or fat

¼ cup shelled unsalted sunflower seeds

Sprinkling of soy sauce (optional)

Open the green beans and drain (I save the bean juice for my weekly left over soup or stew fluid.) Set the beans aside. Put a saucepan over medium heat. In a hot dry saucepan heat up the sunflower seeds for 10 to 15 seconds. Add the butter or oil to coat the seeds then pour in the set aside drained beans. Sauté beans until heated through. Sprinkle with soy sauce if desired. Serve as a side for dinner or with toast or rice for lunch. Note: If substituting fresh or frozen green beans for canned, warm the seeds then remove from the sauce pan to add back when the fresh or frozen green beans are cooked through. Green beans of any type taste good slathered in butter and sprinkled with soy sauce.

In 2000 Michele Priddy left the work force to become a stay-at-home mother and wife. Being a one-income family in today’s society meant she had to learn to budget quickly. Food became a priority early because she wanted the children to have the best nutrition, she could offer them even on a budget. She also taught cooking classes on how to stretch the food dollar with simple ingredients at various churches in her community. Michelle has put her kitchen strategies and recipes in booklets, her church newsletter and in her hometown newspaper, The Goldendale Sentinel. We hope you will enjoy her strategies, stories, and recipes. You can contact the Leavenworth Echo at or 509-548-5286 if you have any questions or comments for Michelle.



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