You, Protein, and Amino Acids

This is what an amino acid can look like.

In March, I posted an article called “What’s an Incomplete Protein?” This article was also posted on the Fooducate blog where it came in for some criticism, and rightly so.

People wondered about my explanation of microbiology and, after I read their comments, so did I! Fooducate asked me to rewrite, and this is the result, adapted for this blog.

The article had come about because I had questions “niggling” at me. I eat very little meat but lots of beans and whole grains. Here’s what I thought was true: Beans are an incomplete protein that needed to be completed to provide a protein that my body could use.

My questions were: What exactly is an incomplete protein? And what do I have to do to make sure it becomes complete? As my commenters and further research showed me, these questions were outdated and simplistic.

But let’s start at the beginning.

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What is an “Incomplete” Protein?

As a result of working on The Bean Bake Blog, I’ve begun to look more closely at beans in general. For example, bean protein is considered an “incomplete” protein.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really understood the term: incomplete protein. I know we have to “complete” the protein with other food, but what does that mean, and how are we supposed to do it?

Clearly, it was time to do some research, and here is what I learned.

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Quinoa Pudding #2: With Pumpkin or Butternut Squash

Right out of the oven

Right out of the oven

I’ve been experimenting with this pudding and have discovered that it offers great versatility.  Quinoa Pudding #1 had cranberries and was delicious.  I then made the pudding with 1 cup of pumpkin purée and liked it even better.  It was filling and a sweet comfort food.  I also had to cook the pudding longer because there was more of it.

Yesterday I made it with mashed butternut squash to see what would happen.  Another success and it made the kitchen smell like butterscotch!  My husband liked the pumpkin pudding better, but I’d rate both as equal.  Also, both pumpkin and butternut quash are great foods for dieters because both are 0 points on the Weight Watchers program.

Update: I have also created a summer version with banana that is now posted.

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 9-10 ½-cup servings


  • 1 cup quinoa seeds
  • ½ cup liquid egg substitute
  • ½ cup artificial sugar
  • 2½ cups almond milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée or butternut squash, cooked and mashed


  1. Rinse quinoa seeds if the manufacturer has not indicated that this has been done.
  2. Put 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Add quinoa and bring to boil again.
  4. Lower heat to simmer.
  5. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.  The quinoa should have absorbed all the water, and you should have approximately 2 cups.
  6. In a bowl, beat eggs with a whisk.
  7. Stir in artificial sugar, milk, vanilla, salt, spices, and mashed squash.
  8. Test the flavour to ensure that it is sweet enough for you or needs more spices.
  9. Add cooked quinoa to liquid ingredients.
  10. Bake in 325 degree oven for 55 minutes. The quinoa will not be set yet.
  11. Let stand for 15 minutes for liquid to absorbed.

For Weight Watchers: 2 points per ½-cup serving on the Points plan and 1.5 points per ½-cup serving on the PointsPlus plan.