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What makes a complete protein with sweet potato?

Proteins are an essential part of a healthy diet. They are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. There are 20 different amino acids that join together in various combinations to form the thousands of different proteins needed by the human body. Some amino acids can be made by the body, while others must be obtained from food. These are known as essential amino acids. For a protein to be considered “complete” it must contain all 9 of the essential amino acids.

Do sweet potatoes contain protein?

Sweet potatoes do contain some protein, but only small amounts. In a 100 gram serving of baked sweet potato (without skin) there are about 2 grams of protein.(1) Sweet potatoes are considered a starchy vegetable, with most of their calories coming from carbohydrates. They lack some of the essential amino acids needed to make a complete protein.

Which essential amino acids are missing in sweet potatoes?

The main essential amino acids that are low or missing in sweet potatoes include:(2)

  • Tryptophan
  • Methionine
  • Cysteine
  • Lysine

So in order to make a complete protein using sweet potatoes, foods containing these amino acids need to be included.

What foods can complement the amino acid profile of sweet potatoes?

Some foods that can provide the amino acids sweet potatoes are lacking include:

  • Beans – Kidney, pinto, black beans are rich in lysine and complement the profile of sweet potatoes.
  • Nuts – Almonds, cashews and pistachios contain methionine and cysteine.
  • Seeds – Pumpkin, chia and hemp seeds provide amino acids like tryptophan that are missing from sweet potatoes.
  • Dairy – Milk, cheese and yogurt contain lysine and tryptophan.
  • Meat and Poultry -contain all the essential amino acids needed to complement sweet potatoes.
  • Eggs – Also contain all 9 essential amino acids.

What are some examples of complete protein meals with sweet potatoes?

Here are some meal ideas that pair sweet potatoes with complementary proteins:

  • Baked sweet potato topped with black beans, salsa, avocado and cilantro.
  • Sweet potato hash with eggs, spinach, onion and mushrooms.
  • Roasted sweet potato slices on a salad with mixed greens, chickpeas, feta cheese and vinaigrette.
  • Sweet potato and peanut stew – sweet potatoes simmered in a sauce with peanut butter, vegetables and spices.
  • Sweet potato burrito bowl with brown rice, pinto beans, chicken, cheese, lettuce and salsa.
  • Sweet potato fries served with a turkey or veggie burger.
  • Sweet potato soup with lentils or split peas and pumpkin seeds.

Sample Meal Plan with Complete Proteins

Here is a sample one day meal plan incorporating sweet potatoes plus complementary proteins:

Meal Foods
Breakfast Sweet potato toast with almond butter, banana and chia seeds
Lunch Mixed greens salad with roasted sweet potato, chickpeas, feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette
Dinner Coconut curry sweet potato and chickpea stew with brown rice
Snack Sweet potato hummus with veggies and whole grain pita chips

Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes and Proteins

There are many health benefits to including both sweet potatoes and complementary proteins in your diet:

  • Sweet Potatoes – Excellent source of vitamin A (from beta-carotene), vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and fiber.(3) May help regulate blood sugar.
  • Beans – Rich in fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium. Associated with reduced chronic disease risk.
  • Nuts and seeds – High in healthy unsaturated fats, vitamin E, minerals. Help reduce cholesterol.
  • Dairy – Provides calcium, vitamin D, potassium, B vitamins. Helps build strong bones when part of a balanced diet.
  • Eggs – Contain high-quality protein, lutein, choline. Choline supports brain health.

By combining sweet potatoes with complementary plant and animal proteins you can obtain all the essential amino acids needed to support good health.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Here are some tips for preparing sweet potatoes and plant-based proteins:

  • Wash and peel sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes for faster cooking.
  • Roast chopped sweet potatoes tossed in olive oil at 400°F for 30-40 minutes until tender.
  • Try different varieties – Hannah, Japanese or purple sweet potatoes have different flavors.
  • Cook beans from dry for best quality. Canned beans need rinsing before using.
  • Soak nuts and seeds overnight to maximize nutrients. Store nut butters in fridge after opening.
  • When adding dairy, opt for plain Greek yogurt and unflavored milk.

Potential Concerns

While sweet potatoes and complementary proteins are very healthy, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Beans and other high fiber foods can cause gas and bloating for some people. Introduce them gradually.
  • Those with nut allergies will need to avoid nuts and seeds and find alternatives.
  • Go for low-fat or non-fat dairy options to limit saturated fat intake.
  • Watch your overall calorie intake if trying to lose weight – measure portions, especially of nuts, cheese, avocado.
  • As with any significant diet change, consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.


While sweet potatoes themselves lack some essential amino acids, by pairing them with beans, nuts, seeds, eggs or dairy you can easily create delicious and healthy complete protein meals. The combination of sweet potatoes and plant or animal proteins provides all the essential nutrients you need, along with plenty of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. With some creative meal planning and preparation, sweet potatoes can be part of a varied diet that gives you sustainable energy and supports overall health.