Complementary combinations create complete protein

Serve this Mediterranean bean salad with a hearty whole grain bread for a complete protein meal. | Betty Ann Deobald photo

The combination of wheat or rice with beans or lentils is referred to as complementary because they create a nutritionally complete protein.

To explain this, consider that proteins are an essential part of every cell, tissue and fluid in our bodies. Proteins are made from amino acids, which can be thought of as building blocks. The body uses 20 different amino acids to make its proteins. There are some amino acids that the body cannot make in required amounts and these are called essential, and they must come from the diet.

Complete protein foods have all the essential amino acids. In general, animal foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and fish are complete protein sources. Incomplete protein sources have low amounts of some of the essential amino acids. Combining two or more foods with incomplete proteins to provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids are referred to as complementary proteins. They do not need to be eaten together, so long as the day’s meals supply them all.

Some common food pairings that make a complete protein are:

  • pulses with grains, nuts, seeds or dairy
  • grains with dairy
  • dairy with nuts
  • dairy with nuts/seeds and pulses

In some information, the term legume is used rather than pulses. Pulses are part of the legume family (any plants that grow in pods), but the term “pulse” refers only to the dry edible seed within the pod. Beans, lentils, chickpeas and split peas are the most common types of pulses.

Mediterranean bean salad

Serve this bean salad with a multi-grain bread to create a complementary protein meal.

  • 1/3 c. olive oil 75 mL
  • 1/4 c. red wine vinegar 60 mL
  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup 45 mL
  • 2 tsp. mustard, Dijon 10 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt 2 mL
  • 1 tsp. oregano, dried 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper, black 2 mL
  • 4 c. green beans, fresh; ends trimmed and diced into 1-inch pieces
  • 13 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed 378 mL
  • 13 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed 378 mL
  • 1 bell pepper, yellow, chunked
  • 1 bell pepper, red, chunked
  • 1/4 onion, red, diced
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 c. tomatoes, cherry; halved 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. fresh basil, roughly chopped 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. fresh parsley, roughly chopped 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. feta cheese 125 mL

In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, sea salt, oregano, and black pepper. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with ice water and set aside. Add trimmed green beans to boiling water and stir.

Boil green beans until just tender, about 30-60 seconds.

Drain green beans and immediately transfer to ice water to chill. Let sit for two minutes, then drain.

Add green beans, kidney beans, chickpea, bell peppers, onion, cucumber, tomatoes, basil, and parsley to a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss well to combine.

Refrigerate. Sprinkle with feta cheese just before serving. Adapted from

Hearty multi-grain bread

Yields three to four loaves.

This bread freezes well.

  • 1/2 c. warm water 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. oatmeal 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. wheat bran 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. bran buds or any bran cereal 125 mL
  • 1 c. hot water 250 mL
  • 1 tbsp. traditional yeast 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. sugar 15 mL
  • 1/2 c. canola oil 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar 125 mL
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. molasses 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. milk, warmed 125 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. rye flour 375 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour 375 mL
  • 1/2 c. cornmeal 125 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt 7 mL
  • 2 – 3 c. flour, enough to make a nice soft dough

In a medium bowl, combine oatmeal, bran and bran cereal. Pour hot water over this mixture, stir just to combine. Let stand to cool.

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water, add the yeast, let rise for 10 minutes until yeast is dissolved.

In a large bowl combine oil, brown sugar, eggs, molasses and milk, stir well. Add yeast and cooled cereal mixture, stir to combine.

Add rye and whole wheat flours, cornmeal and salt, stir to mix. Slowly add the rest of the flour and mix until a nice, soft dough is made. Form into a ball, rub with oil or butter, cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm place. Allow to rise until double in size.

Punch down and form into loaves, place in well-oiled or buttered loaf pans. Oil or butter top of loaves, cover and allow to rise until double in size.

Bake in preheated 350F (180C) 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool on rack, remove from pans after 30 minutes, cool completely.

Place in plastic bag or sealed container to store or freeze.

Adapted from Kevin’s Brown Bread in For the Breasts and the Rest of Friends Cookbook. The original recipe was double in size.

Berry pulse lemon loaf

A traditional lemon loaf adapted to create a complete protein bread or muffins.

  • 1/3 c. butter, melted 75 mL
  • 1 c. white bean or lentils, pureed 250 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar 375 mL
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 7 mL
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice 45 mL
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest 15 mL
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. chickpea flour 125 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder 7 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk 125 mL
  • 1 c. blueberries or saskatoon berries 250 mL
  • 1 tbsp. flour 15 mL
  • 1/2 c. milk 125 mL and
  • 2 tsp. of vinegar or lemon juice 10 mL

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

Beat melted butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, lemon juice, bean or lentil puree and lemon zest together until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt.

Stir flour mixture into egg mixture alternating with buttermilk, starting and ending with flour mixture.

In separate bowl, toss berries with flour, fold into batter. Pour batter into well-oiled loaf pan or muffin pans.

Bake loaf 50 to 55 minutes or muffins 20 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Adapted from: website updated

Arabic, French and Somali translations of some basic home economics videos will soon be available on the website.

The Manitoba Association of Home Economists has updated the website with new home economics resources for families, newcomers, Indigenous peoples and Manitobans living in northern communities.

Written and reviewed by home economists in Manitoba, provides consumers with relevant information and tools that can support them in preparing healthy, low-cost meals using locally sourced ingredients, and building confidence in making everyday decisions.

As an extension of the website, a printed booklet, Helping Families Live Well in Manitoba, will be distributed to Manitoba households in Harvest Manitoba food hampers throughout April.

The booklet contains affordable healthy eating tips, food shopping advice, food preservation information, and a mix of recipes using local ingredients. Additional copies of the booklet will also be available to community agencies and public health dietitians around the province.

This home economics project was funded by the governments of Canada and Manitoba through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership Ag Action Manitoba program in response to the increased financial pressures for families, the need for basic nutrition and cooking information, and a rise in food supply concerns in Manitoba.

In the late 1990s, the Association of Saskatchewan Home Economists (ASHE) created a website to honour the work of long-time Western Producer columnist Emmie Oddie upon her retirement.

Funds donated by readers and home economists from across Canada have continued to support the site though the Emmie Oddie Website Fund at the Canadian Home Economics Foundation/CHEF.

ASHE transitioned the site to MAHE in 2011 and it was given a new look. The mandate of the site is to provide home economics information of interest to consumers in Canada, and specifically on the Prairies.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact:

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