Beans and grains for amino acids

What You Need To Know About Amino Acids

Amino Acids Are The Building Blocks

We don't often think about the amino acids in our food and their impact on our health. But they play a really crucial part to health. This post addresses the important thing that we need to know about amino acids and shares on of my favorite recipes.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and there are twenty altogether. Eight of the twenty are considered “essential amino acids” because we require them but our body cannot manufacture them so we must get them from our food. These eight are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, leucine, and lysine.
Animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs, contain all eight. But different foods such as legumes, seeds, and grains do not.  Therefore they must be combined to create a complete protein. Legumes are high in the essential amino acid lysine, but they are low in methionine grains have both methionine and cysteine but are low in lysine.  Combining them allows you to get a high-quality protein with all of the essential amino acids. 

Going meatless

There's a lot of media attention to the idea of reducing how much meat we're eating. Including a suggestion for ditching the meat at least one day a week and switching to Meatless Mondays

If you are a meat eater who is simply trying to eat less meat, incorporating a vegetarian plan one day a week can be a great way to get started. But it's important that you don't become a carbotarian and simply add lots of pasta or simple carbohydrates for your meatless meals. While getting proper nutrition from vegetarian meals requires a little more thought and effort, it is not difficult.

Amino Acid Food Combinations 

In many cultures there are a lot of recipes that call for a mixture of legumes and grains that then create a complete protein. 
  • a Korean dish called Kong bap is a mixture of seven grains and four beans.  Because this dish contains beans (adzuki beans and green peas) and grains (barley, rice, Job's tears, sorghum, and corn) it provides all of the essential amino acids.  This dish also has soybeans which are considered to be a complete protein by themselves. 
  • South and Central America have many dishes that call for a combination of beans with corn
  • In the Middle East, there is hummus or falafel (made from chickpeas) and whole wheat pita as a common option
  • India brings us dal (lentils) and rice 
Grains and legumes are not the only combinations that make a complete protein.  Nuts and seeds can also be combined with either grains or legumes as a good source of protein.  
The idea is to ensure that if you are not eating meat that you are not simply adding legumes to your diet but that you are adding them with whole grains and/or seeds to get proper nutrition.

Delicious lentils for dinner

One of our favorite dinners is a curried crockpot lentil and rice dish.  This recipe originally came from a Lebanese friend of mine and is called M'judra, I've modified it a little over the years and it's one of our regular choices. Especially because the crockpot makes this an easy option.
This pairs really well with an Indian spinach dish called Palak and a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers with a spice called Chat Masala.  It's a tasty, healthy and satisfying meal.  I make it with a fair amount of curry powder because that's how we like it, if you need to reduce the curry powder it will still be delicious.
Curried Crockpot Lentils and Rice
  1. 1/2 C. rinsed lentils
  2. 1 C. rinsed red rice (can use brown rice if you prefer)
  3. 1 green pepper, diced
  4. 1 onion, diced
  5. 2 T. curry powder
  6. 1 T. nutritional yeast
  7. 1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
  8. 3 1/2 C. vegetable broth
  9. 1 T. olive oil
  1. Saute the pepper and onions in the olive oil until just starting to soften
  2. Place all dry ingredients into the crockpot
  3. Add broth and stir well
  4. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours (check at 4.5 hours to see if you need a little more water)
  5. Add salt to taste after done cooking
  1. Note:  Don't add the salt while cooking because it will delay the lentils from softening
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy
Check out my other recipes using lentils:


Image by carlo sardena from Pixabay 

About Mira

Mira Dessy is The Ingredient Guru. A holistic nutrition professional, author, and a popular public speaker, she knows that it's not just what you eat, but what's in what you eat. She is the author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in their food. Dessy is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner whose mission is to educate and empower consumers. She curates the Lean Clean Green Subscription box, the premier, organic, earth-friendly, healthy, sustainable subscription box which can be found online at