The Protein Combining Myth

The Protein Combining Myth

“The Protein Combining Myth” All nutrients come from
the sun or the soil. Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” is created
when skin is exposed to sunlight. Everything else comes
from the ground. Minerals originate from the earth, and vitamins from the plants and
micro-organisms that grow from it. The calcium in a cow’s milk
(and her 200-pound skeleton) came from all the plants she ate,
which drew it up from the soil. We can cut out the middle-moo, though,
and get calcium from the plants directly. Where do you get
your protein? Protein contains essential amino acids, meaning our bodies can’t make them
and so are essential to get from our diet. But other animals
don’t make them either. All essential amino acids originate
from plants (and microbes), and all plant proteins have
all essential amino acids. The only truly “incomplete” protein
in the food supply is gelatin, which is missing the amino
acid tryptophan. So the only protein source that
you couldn’t live on is Jell-O. As I covered previously, those
eating plant-based diets average about twice the average
daily requirement for protein. Those who don’t know where to get
protein on a plant-based diet don’t know beans!
Get it? That’s protein quantity, though.
What about protein quality? The concept that plant protein was
inferior to animal protein arose from studies performed on
rodents more than a century ago. Scientists found that infant rats
don’t grow as well on plants. But infant rats don’t grow as well
on human breast milk either, so does that mean we shouldn’t
breastfeed our babies? Ridiculous! They’re rats. Rat milk has ten times more
protein than human milk, because rats grow about ten times
faster than human infants. It’s true that some plant
proteins are relatively low in certain essential amino acids. So about 40 years ago, the myth of
“protein combining” came into vogue— literally: the February ’75 issue
of Vogue magazine. The concept was that we needed to eat
“complementary proteins” together, for example rice and beans,
to make up for their relative shortfalls. This fallacy was refuted decades ago,
the myth that plant proteins are incomplete, that plant proteins aren’t as good,
that one has to combine proteins at meals. These have all been dismissed by
the nutrition community as myths decades ago, but many in medicine
evidently didn’t get the memo. Dr. John McDougall called out
the American Heart Association for a 2001 publication that questioned
the completeness of plant proteins. Thankfully though they’ve changed
and acknowledged now that plant proteins can provide
all the essential amino acids; no need to combine
complementary proteins. It turns out our body
is not stupid. It maintains pools of free
amino acids that can be used to do all the complementing for us, not to mention the massive protein
recycling program our body has. Some 90 grams of protein is dumped
into the digestive tract every day from our own body to get broken
back down and reassembled, so our body can mix and match amino
acids to whatever proportions we need, whatever we eat, making it practically
impossible to even design a diet of whole plant foods that’s sufficient
in calories, but deficient in protein. Thus, plant-based consumers do not need
to be AT ALL concerned about amino acid imbalances from the plant proteins
that make up our usual diets.



  • RaniaIsAwesome

    Tough blow to all those on the jello-mono diet…

  • Atomic Skies

    I'm so pissed. This protein combining thing was taught in my nutrition class in college about 5 years ago. Can I get a refund for all my debt? -.-

  • Emma

    Turns out our bodies are not stupid after all! Hahaha I loved this and really needed to hear it as I have been thinking about this latelty, thanks so much doctor! Your videos are amazing#!

  • McGee

    So pretty much, you just don't have to eat beans and rice together in a single meal as long as you are actively eating both of them in a total diet.

    I still like to combine beans and rice or Split peas and Lentils.

    Tastes good, and offers good texture feed back.
    Aaaaand it happens to carry the added bonus of being more complete.

    Even If it's not necessary.

  • ajaxmuse

    is this video relevant bodybuilders? I mean there are many bodybuilders who switched to a vegan diet and doing so caused them to lose muscle mass by not being able to maintain them. I know that they took in more protein because the bioavailability of protein from plants was extremely low and even then they still couldn't maintain their muscle mass. is plant protein just inferior to meat protein? science says one thing but then you have proof from people who have lost muscle mass because they went vegan. im confused

  • brad mitch

    This is something that I always think about. People ALWAYS talk about protein and "where you gonna get your protein?". That is the least of a veg eaters worries! When people ask that question it proves their ignorance.

  • Archilles Roark

    Rat milk. Mmmm yummy!

  • KinderBueno Bueno

    Thank you so much! Amino acid imbalance is my biggest concern on a vegan diet, this is great news.

  • Ryan Clark

    "the middle moo"…. love it!

  • Jersey'sOwn201 But i dont understand. So if a person eats just broccoli for example, then does that mean that our essential amino acid requirements are met? Which foods contain which amino acids and in what proportions? Too many loose ends in this video for me.

  • nonchalantd

    I was waiting for an answer to this question for so long. Thank you.

  • Cold World

    Breaking down the real facts! Keep up the good work!

  • William Read

    this is not true

  • Pantego Hummus

    Have mercy

  • david jandrow

    Dietetics still propagating this myth. Thank you Dr. Greger for all you do

  • Johnny

    Hey, I still like my rice and beans ! Or pasta with peas !

  • Dirty Needlez

    Once again thank you Dr Greger for sharing this amazing knowledge with us all, I feel honoured to receive it. I must tell you I just received "How Not To Die" in the post last week. I'm pretty sure I ordered one copy, but Amazon sent me two!

    Either way if I did pay for two it is no worry, I can't wait to start reading it and I will give the other away as a gift to someone who deserves it 🙂

  • Aaron Verran

    thats right chow down on lentils and kale or beans and broccoli take that meat eaters

  • Chemgineer

    It's a disgrace that most doctors lack the level of knowledge on nutrition to adequately prevent disease formation and any further metastasis. But, again, the industry of pharmaceuticals won't flourish on competent citizens.

  • June ribaldi

    EXCELLENT Thank You I did read your book How not to Die
    Excellent . ORGANIC PLANT BASE

  • Master Ray

    Is Michael Greger s resaerch valid?
    Like there are some paid studdys, some studys that support a movement like the vegan 1.
    I mean thear is also the lchf experts and nutritionist an people claiming that they are healthyer and more energetic on it have way better blood work and stuff like that.
    I want some proff that he has valid information.

  • Carol F

    I get the impression that this dr wants people to stop eating meat…that makes me want to eat more meat.

  • Tarrynn

    I have a family member who really wants to build muscle and follows body builders, and tries to eat like them. I'm vegan and trying to show them that they really don't need animal protein. These body builders talk about how animal protein is more easily absorbed into the body than plant protein. I'm trying to find some evidence of this. Does anyone know if this is true or have any resources on this in particular?

  • Marcus Triton

    great vid. and Thanks for the McDougal shout out.

  • Reinventing My Life

    My RD from KP told me "you cannot eat only plant protein" you must eat animals to get all your nutrition….she sat there with all her fake meat for display>barf and I had to pay 20.00 for that consult. Ohhh and only 2 fruits a day because it has carbs and natural sugar.

  • Syntropius

    Hi, I'm trying to construct/understand, fully, the argument to refute/debunk the food combining myth. Directly and with scientific sources. However, many materials, even the video above, use slightly roundabout ways to present the case, and oftern do not directly address it. I have a friend who recently did a training where they were specifically taught this theory and her being straight out of training, my unresearched arguments are weaker. "This is not true" is not an argument, that is a claim. An argument would contain proof and sources. The video above, which I found whilst searching for material, both scientific and popular, does not present the full argument. The articles flashed on the screen look scientific but the titles do not direclty address the quesion (I will nevertheless try and look them up, to see, if their bodies do). It can be seen as using roundabout pointers. In myth debunking this leaves too much room for potential other fallacies. So can someone help me with either constructing the argument or at least point out scientific evidence to counter the claims of food combining? I'm confortable with dwelling into scientific papers, but one needs to dive in from the right end of the pool, with right keywords to avoid wasting time. And by looking at both sides, independently of what one believes or wants to believe. I might end up with the construction of convincing opposite arguments as well. Whatever the data.

  • Raw Viking

    The sad thing is that even Vegans seems to still be as obsessed with "proteins" as the average carnist.
    In reality we don't need to be thinking about trying to get enough protein.
    You can completely throw out the beans, lentils, nuts and seeds and still be perfectly fine.
    Eating fruits and greens exclusively will give about the same amount of proteins/aminos per calorie as mothers milk.
    Plenty enough to build strength and perfect health.

  • Malcolm Thorpe

    "But you look skinny"….told me my 150kg friend lols

  • Qualicum Wilson

    Key concept is "typical american diet". Which produces an overweight to obese population. But why? A look at the "requirement index" shows that milk and eggs are both in the high 90 % range and are called complete foods because of this. Whole grains are in the 76 to 82% range and peanuts are 67%. Meats, not listed, are higher than grains but lower then say, eggs. Now what does this mean? To me, if you only eat uncombined foods, you need 50% more peanuts(67% plus 50 % of 67% , or 33% equal 100%, no?) to get enough essential amino acids to supply enough for the body to have the the100% complete protein needed to live. Where does the remainder protein go? Some can be used by the body as energy, but some is also stored until the body gets the missing amino acids needed to make it useful for the body. This is called by normal language, fat. That is one reason why the "typical american diet" is so high in calories. Look at nations where excessive calories in the diet are either not available or too expensive and see what they eat. Cuba for example. There is a Cuban joke the goes:- In Cuba we eat beans and rice for breakfast, rice and beans for lunch and Moros and Chritianos for dinner (read:- beans and rice). There are not many fat Cubans but there are many healthy ones! India and African, same thing. No, you do not have to combein foods to get a better protein complex, unless you do not want the typical american diet.

  • max roger

    But where do you get your fiber if you aren't eating whole plant foods?

  • Sowiso4

    Thank you so much, that is such a great information for me …. I´ve spent hours of searching for "good" combinations from vegan sources.

  • Will Hamkin


  • TheWipal

    Jesus, i was in nutrition class and hearing my teacher telling all the jokes i mean jocks about protein combining just made me wanna flip a table, i have many regrets

  • Braaah

    I knew about the fact that it is not necessary to combine food at each meal.

    But still i'm confused about something, according to the video i don't need to worry about combining my food like… AT ALL? Like let's say that for a week, i don't feel like eating any whole grain food… It's okay to just eat lentils, beans, vegetables without worrying about that 'combine whole grain and beans' argument?

    Hope i'm clear enough, i'm not english native, it is not even my second language.

  • Wilhelm Perez

    what about elite sport athletes? for sure we need higher amounts of protein.

  • IPM Be

    wooow i love ur channel so thankful i found you. U got urseld a new subbie 😆

  • Steve

    for a bodybuilder or athletes, its known that plant protein is inferior. theyve lost muscle mass, stregth ect.

  • Steve Benton

    I think this is my favorite video ever made

  • Michael Olivares

    But you're body can't keep making up the protien that you need to complete it it's not some magical unlimited supply

  • Some1

    hi doctor can u make a video about PDCAAS .

    I am a vegan powerlifter since 2 months and I don't feel like I am recovering after my workout like before. I am eating the same amount of protein but they are from plants. so bioavailability of them is not as high as meat or animal protein.

  • The Ringmaster

    Dr. Gregor is the man!!!

  • Gopi Caicedo

    A million thanks. This video along with many others of yours have been life changing. I have my energy back. Thank you again.

  • Oblivion 1

    How much protein should we have daily.

  • David Caruso

    Great information makes sense

  • William D

    Isn't lysine typically hard to get enough of if you don't eat beans? So, then, minus beans, it seems fairly easy to design a diet that is deficient. I mean, if you eat less lysine than is needed every day, the "pools" of amino acids that the body has access to is going to be deficient in lysine. Isn't this true? If the RDAs are correct that is?

  • Custode Della Vita

    Thanks for this video, and thanks for the italian translation 👍

  • Parnian

    Oh wow. I have been vegan for a year and I didn't know up until now that the protein combining was a myth. So many misinformed vegan advocates out there that don't even give the right advice. Thank you dr Greger!!!!!

  • MrMasterDebate

    cut out the MIDDLE MOO 😂😂😂 I love this man .

  • Zoncolan

    If you want to prove your point, help a vegan cyclist race at the Tour de France. Then we can discuss whether complete protein is a myth.

  • onefoot7

    I found it quite interesting that God in human form himself did not eat meat

  • Marjolein Caljouw

    "Turns out the body is not stupid" 😀 haha

  • thaik56

    Even as a vegan I thought we had to combine plant food to get complete protein, I really need to do my research.

  • J'zargo The Khajiit

    They fucking teach the myth in nutrition classes and health courses at schools.

  • Randy

    Phenylalanine was found exclusively in animal products prior to the agricultural era. Had it not been for thousands of years of cultivation and trade allowing people from all over the world to eat man-made nutritional 'powerhouses', most of humanity would have died eradicating meat from their diet.

    You can live off of plants NOW, but even then you run into problems sourcing your amino acids from specific foods (estrogenic properties, raw veganism being a myth (soy is poisonous raw), consumption of phytic acid, and still tons of vitamin deficiencies). We didn't get our B12 from water; Veganism is still bullshit.

  • Josep aldosa

    what about all that athletes stuffing protein all day long?

  • Educate Society

    My biology teacher was teaching us about how plant proteins are incomplete. I wish I knew this at the time. It sucks how much we are miseducated because of all the myths that have gone mainstream, and now people don't know how to eat healthy.

  • Survesh Bajpai

    You are terribly wrong sir!

  • Karla Peña

    I just took an online course, allegedly supported by Stanford university, and it had that protein myth about combining proteins in it! I guess I knew the course was a low quality one when they preached healthy eating and then proceeded to promote recipes full of eggs, diary and oils….
    Thanks Dr. Greger and Team

  • anna alm

    I am studying nutrition and they are still teaching the myth!!!!! thanks so much for the information!

  • David Gardell

    The other day somebody asked me to show the evidence, since Harvard “proved” this and no science has proven otherwise.
    I feel like that seagull at the very end when I hear the word “protein” 😑
    /plantbased for 15 yrs and counting

  • Shari T

    Super informative video!! Thanks for posting! Real glad to see the amino acid pool info!

  • Daniel Dolorez

    So could i be healthy on a variety of fruits and vegetables without eating grains and legumes or seeds? Just strictly vegetables and fruits??

  • WeirdViking

    This video is a complete joke. You know people can READ right? Especially at 2:50 and 3:07 The bullshit you're saying doesn't match the science papers you're showing. Especially at 3:07 you say with condescension "no need to combine" .. when the fucking statement clearly reads "as long as sources are — VARIED"

    The response from AHA is NOT that any single plant has complete protein, as it doesn't, but infact that IF you're eating rich DIET of varied vegan based foods, then you'll end up with enough protein.

    That CONFIRMS protein combining.

  • Suncica Erceg

    gasi kanal

  • PewPewPlasmagun

    Obviously, rats are not herbivores but omnivores.

  • Sam van den Biggelaar

    Isn't the idea behind incomplete proteins the ratio of certain amino acids to others or even absence of some amino acids? (like essentials vs non-essential)
    So saying they are incomplete may technically be wrong, but if you take incomplete to mean not optimal human use or not containing all of our essential and semi-essential amino acids, would that also be a myth, or does that interpretation actually have some validity?
    It could very well be the case that proteins from meat are more optimized for say muscle growth, because it's already a muscle, whereas plant-bodies are very different from our bodies in terms of structure. I haven't looked into the research on this, but if anyone who has cares to comment on this, I would be very interested to know if what I just said holds any truth.

  • John Watson

    How much do you squat, bench and deadlift?

  • John Watson

    So i don't have to combine meats? Any meat will give me all the proteins my body needs?
    Great, because eating meat has been a tradition in my family for millions of years.

  • Daniel Rose

    Sun, cholesterol and a series of skin interactions that can be easily interrupted by washing / water / sun-blocker provides vitamin D to the body. Let's hear it for cholesterol, which if we have too little actually shortens our lives or even kills us. Our body actually produces a lot of cholesterol, unlike vitamin C (which almost every other creature out there does make). We can survive without much vitamin C, but apparently we cannot survive without cholesterol. Perhaps we can fix the gene that is supposed to make vitamin C, but I have not heard anyone propose that.

  • Van Litespeed

    I would drink rat milk, who cares, its just your mind getting in the way to eat this but not that. the fact of the matter is most vegans went vegan then learned how to defend it as yhe superior way of eating, not the other way around. its all a superiority complex, they like to look down at others who arent vegan as less than and gonna die a miserable death while vegans fart rainblows and pee pure mango juice.

  • Sim Got

    So why does Dr. Esselstyn object to eating avocados and nuts?

  • Joes Disley

    where can i find more info about plants producing amoni acids while humans and animals just recycle them.
    all i find is info about humans and animals producing non essential amino acids themselves

  • Joe Curran

    This is a great video. I just have one question. What about protein from eggs?

  • Kristian K

    Dont get your cowcium from the middle mooh

  • Chuck Norris

    Nice video but the comment section is full of vegan jihadists

  • Nicki Almond

    What foods should you eat to cure nocturia/frequent urination? I want to eat plant-based and am under the impression that amino acids can heal the bladder/these problems. I remember drinking bone broth with plenty of gelatin and was able to sleep without waking up at all that night. I haven't been able to do that for years.

  • Ms Charmaine

    You are my rockstar Dr Gregor 🌱❤️🌱⭐️

  • Jimmy

    Real gotcha moment when you caught AHA saying "you need to eat multiple plant protein sources" and then correcting it with "you need to eat multiple plant protein sources"

    If you're going to misrepresent what sources actually say, don't quote them.

  • Fucking Potatoes

    I didn't get memo either. 😤 My dumbass been trying my damndest to pair my proteins with grains.

  • Monday Elizabeth

    1:55 so we can possibly drink rat milk and make rat cheese too?

  • Extraterrestrial

    VEGAN Bodybuilding On The RISE!!!!!!!!

  • Linda McNeil

    While you don’t need to combine your proteins in your meal, but you do need to make sure you are getting a variety of amino acids at sometime for your body to consume them. If you are deficit from eating them, your body can’t store and allocate them.

  • John Paradise

    1:30 “The concept that plant protein was inferior to animal protein arose from studies performed on rodents more than a century ago. Scientists found that infant rats don’t grow as well on plants. But infant rats don’t grow as well on human breast milk either…”

  • bradley shefmire

    Transcript please…..

  • George Abraham

    Daniel 1:12 Settled debate long ago.

  • Sebastien Roux

    If plant proteins are complete then why do my muscles take longer to recover then?

    Wait a minute… so if the body has an amino acid pool… the pool needs to be filled doesn't it? With essential amino acids which the body can not produce on its own. So yeah at some point you will need to eat to complete the incomplete protein…

  • Firangele Sepulveda

    Great as always! 🙏🏻🌱❤️

  • Mike Skylark

    Dr. Greger, you are a legend!

  • Deron Baker

    The concern over inadequate protein intake from plant diets is "a nothing burger".

  • Nocturno

    Wow the people who follow this channel and don't do any fact checking are fucking brain dead. You are so self absorbed in your vegan bullshit lifestyle you have no idea this guy is full of shit.

  • MsRosecrystal

    Wait…he said the body strips and recycles protein from itself. Isn't it bad when the body strips off protein? When it does this with calcium with pregnant mothers it causes bone loss and bad teeth, How is the protein thing different?

  • uman Rosenberg

    According to Chronometer, spinach does not have methionine nor trypophan and is low in all the rest, too (,01 gram 3 cup serving)

  • Smac

    Can you do a video on strength resistance training with weights. This video suggests that protein isn't as necessary for that as well.


    Science without common sense has always resulted in dietary fallacy. You can even question for recommending the direct consumption of plant reproductive material . Not only are beans, seeds, whole grains, ,rice etc protected by Anti-nutrients and damage the gut. The benefits they are touting are bio-unavailable until sprouting and germination takes place. Remember if you can't consume something raw without some form of process like cooking, chances are nature never intended it to be a dietary staple.

  • Erick Beristain

    Then, could you make a video explaining which are the health issues a 100% plan based protein could bring, such as SiBO and so? please. Love your videos

  • Erick Beristain

    Another question. If animals obtain their protein from plants too, then why does we obtain more protein from cows than from other animals?

  • Quixotic

    I agree with the basic idea that vegans overthink protein. For instance, I just tallied up what I ate today, which I don't usually do. I got about 44% of my protein from legumes, 32% from vegetables, 12% from nuts and seeds, 10% from grains, with the remaining points being fruit and me being lazy with rounding. Despite getting about 75% of my protein from food with the same limiting acid, I'm still definitely fine. And so are most vegans.

    That said, you DO need to have a varied diet. If you get a lot of vegetable protein at dinner, and have some grains or nuts in the evening, you're groovy. It doesn't have to be the same meal. Or even every day, our body can compensate for shortfalls by recycling protein. But if you CHRONICALLY get all your protein from a single source like grain, you'll eventually have protein problems. But eating such a stupidly one-dimensional diet is inherently unhealthy, whether you're vegan or a traditional omnivore, and protein is just one facet of the unhealthiness.

    So basically, yes, limiting amino acids are real, and most plant proteins are "incomplete". But a vegan with a healthy and varied diet doesn't need to consciously think about it at all. Which is really the take-away.

  • Joel Munson

    This is good evidence that plants can offer sufficient protein with no meat. But this is poor evidence that a single-source plant can offer sufficient protein.

    The very quote you cite says that plant proteins are sufficient "as long as sources of dietary protein are varied." Of course meat isn't needed. But varied plants evidently are.

    The gelatin study only looked at 15 different protein sources, it was on RATS, and it is from 1964.

    Good job herding the sheeple.

  • Stadno Art

    Wow!! Thank you!

  • Schmuddel

    Vegan propaganda peddled as "nutrition facts."

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