Some of our many vegetarian readers probably learned this long ago, but I will admit to remaining a sucker regarding the myth of the “complete protein.” So I am thinking maybe there are a lot of people with lingering fears of failing to combine the right vegetarian foods to make a “complete protein.”
My path to enlightenment started with the story of magician and entertainer Penn Jillette’s amazing weight loss. Success stories in dramatic weight loss maintenance are few and far between, so Jillette’s accomplishment perks my interest. Many reports focus on the “potato diet” to which Jillette attributes his ability to break with his old ways. If you read the whole story, though, you see that he only stuck to a potato mono-diet for the first weeks before adopting a healthy diet rich in vegetables.
Surfing along this theme I learned that a mono-diet is a well-established method to “reset” tastes for salt and sugar as well as build a new relationship with food for sustenance rather than for entertainment, comfort, or pleasure. This led to the story of an Australian man who plans to eat only potatoes for a year (CAUTION: there are serious health risks from a potato-only diet, especially in cases of weak kidneys, so don’t attempt this without the supervision of your doctor), as well as Dr. Walter Kempner’s rice diet, in which rice is the only source of protein.
Let’s be honest here: this is a pretty stupid way to diet and anyone out there desperately looking for a dietary solution to serious health problems should not try any crazy diets without excellent medical advice, because those health issues may be made worse by over-dosing on any single foodstuff.
But these crazy diets opened my eyes: how is it that doctors are saying a diet of all potatoes or all rice could be fine? Aren’t those “incomplete proteins?”
So I dug a bit deeper. First, one has to understand what we mean by “complete protein.” Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. In order to grow…