Choose wisely: Complete vs. incomplete proteins

(BPT) – Now that more people are aware of the health benefits of eating protein — and the effectiveness of low-carb diets — they’re increasingly seeking ways to enjoy that nutritional powerhouse in their daily diets.

Many, however, may be unclear about the important nutritional differences between complete and incomplete proteins. And that could affect whether they’re taking in minimal daily dosages of the crucial body building block.

The global market for protein ingredients is expected to grow by 7.4 percent annually in the next seven years, climbing to a staggering $48.5 billion by 2025. That’s partly because protein offers so many benefits: It can stabilize blood sugar levels, improve your ability to learn and concentrate, boost your energy, support your muscles and bones, keep you feeling full longer and help you absorb other important nutrients. Many protein-rich foods are gluten-free, and many are effectively used as elements of low-carb diets.

Still, not all proteins are created equal; so-called “incomplete” proteins must be combined with other foods to build the nine essential amino acids your body can’t produce on its own. That’s huge when it comes to functions like building, fueling and repairing your muscles and growing your hair and nails.

Here are four other facts to know about the difference between complete and incomplete proteins.

* Animal-derived products such as cottage cheese, meat, poultry, fish and eggs are complete proteins in and of themselves and need not be eaten with other foods to release their full nutritional potential.

* In comparison to animal proteins, plant proteins are not always complete and must be combined with other foods to achieve their full nutritional value (the exceptions are edamame, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, chia and hemp).

* Nuts and nut butters are also incomplete proteins and must be combined with other foods to provide all nine essential amino acids. They’re also very high in fat and calories compared to some other proteins.

* Unlike meat, poultry, eggs and fish, cottage cheese is a ready-to-eat complete protein that requires no cooking. Plus, cottage cheese contains casein protein, which provides energy to keep you moving, plus keeps you feeling fuller longer. Cottage cheese is also more healthful than other complete protein alternatives, as it offers less fat and fewer calories than meat, and has twice the protein of an egg.

When you choose Muuna cottage cheese, for example, you get 14-19 grams of protein per serving, plus other essential nutrients including calcium, potassium, Vitamin A and probiotics. And because Muuna is uniquely rich and creamy, you can swap Lowfat or Classic Plain Muuna for mayonnaise, sour cream and other cheeses in dishes like pasta and potato salads, dips and sandwiches to add a boost of protein without adding additional fat or calories.

Single-serve varieties of Muuna include real pieces of fruit on the bottom and are packed with 15 g of protein, just 9 g of sugar and only 130 calories, making Muuna a nutritiously delicious grab-and-go breakfast, lunch or snack. Fruit varieties are also a great yogurt swap in smoothies, and when they’re paired with carb-heavy foods like pancakes, waffles and muffins, add satiating protein to keep you fuller longer.

Do your body — and your brain — a favor by looking for ways to add complete proteins to your meals and snacks throughout the day. For more recipes making delicious and nutritious use of protein-rich cottage cheese, log on to