Red Beans and Rice

December 4, 2014

Protein Trivia!

Of all the cheeses, which contains the most amount of protein?

Red Beans and Rice 2-600x

Photo Credit: Glasbergen

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A: low-sodium Parmesan, with 41.6 grams per 3.5 oz serving

A few more

Q:  Which country has the biggest meat-eaters?    A:  Luxemburg, eating roughly 300 pounds of meat per person every year (that seems like a lot!).  The U.S. is a close second

Q:  How many amino acids are there?  A: 20

Q:  How many of these are considered essential (meaning those our bodies can’t produce them and therefore they have to come from the food we eat)?   A:  9

Q:  Are we able to store amino acids?   A:  Yep, essential amino acids are stored in the liver for up to a few days

Q:  Where does protein digestion begin?   A:  In the stomach

Red Beans and Rice - Ham hock and smoked sausage cook along with the beans to give it a savory .. smoky depth. The herbs and spices provide just the right amount of spiciness.

She never says, but I have a feeling my professor smiles every time I turn in a paper.  “This was my favorite assignment yet; I sure wish I’d had this knowledge years ago.  It’s all starting to make sense”   This week’s lightbulb moment?

Protein Complementation

Amino acids are the building blocks that make up our bodies enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters in our brains, the antibodies that our immune system generates, as well as antioxidants.  They support the building, repair, and maintenance of every one of our organs, nerves, skin, hair, nails, and muscles in our bodies.

There are different categories of amino acids.  First, are those that are essential, meaning our bodies can’t synthesize them and have to be obtained through our diets (isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine).

Then there are the conditionally essential amino acids.  They’re essential under certain conditions.  For example, during a growth spurt, or if someone is recovering from an injury or a certain health condition.

Red Beans and Rice - Ham hock and smoked sausage cook along with the beans to give it a savory .. smoky depth. The herbs and spices provide just the right amount of spiciness.

Based on their balance of essential amino acids, the proteins we eat fall into one of two categories.

Complete protein foods contain all of them.  In general, they’ll be those originating from animals.  Think meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.  Incomplete protein foods contain only some, think grains, fruit, and veggies.  The limiting amino acid is the enzyme that’s either absent or found in the shortest supply

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that animal foods contain more protein (and are considered more valuable) than those from plants.  The exceptions?  Legumes, as in dried beans, lentils, and peas

“Leguminous plants are unique in that their roots are associated with bacteria that can take nitrogen from the air and incorporate them into amino acids.  These amino acids are then used by the associated plant”   (Nutritional Sciences | Michelle McGuire and Kathy Beerman)

Red Beans and Rice 1-600x

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I’d always wondered if one isn’t a meat-eater, how is it possible to reap the rewards of complete protein foods?  For sure, there are a few plant-based choices that are complete: quinoa, hemp seeds, buckwheat, or soy.  After a while though, I imagine it would be nice to branch out

Protein Complementation is the ability to combine two or more incomplete protein foods that, in totality will contain all of the essential amino acids.  The idea is they’ll complement each other and provide the body with what it needs

But wait?  What if someone isn’t able to eat complementary protein foods at a meal?  Is all lost?  Nope, turns out our bodies can store amino acids in the liver for up to several days, so the foods don’t have to be eaten together to realize their effect.

A few examples of complementary food pairings?

Corn and beans

Whole-grain cereal with soy milk

Peanut butter on whole-wheat toast (+ a banana)

Beans and Rice

Red Beans and Rice - Ham hock and smoked sausage cook along with the beans to give it a savory .. smoky depth. The herbs and spices provide just the right amount of spiciness.

It’s said that in New Orleans, Red Beans and Rice was traditionally served on Mondays (laundry day), with the idea that the cook could leave it simmering for hours on the stove while she went about her washing.

With the weather stretching to get above freezing the past few weeks, it’s seemed like a perfect occasion to have our own version simmering as well.

Here, the ham hock and smoked sausage cook along with the beans to lend a savory, smoky depth.  The beans are soft and creamy; the herbs and spices do an excellent job of providing just the right amount of spiciness.



ps:  To read more about protein complementation: here, here, and here

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~ Adapted from Food Network

Red Beans and Rice


  • 8 oz dried red beans
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small smoked ham hock
  • ½ green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • ½ Tbsp salt
  • ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbs grapeseed oil
  • ½ lb smoked sausage
  • steamed brown rice, for serving


  • In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the beans, chicken and beef stock, onions, ham hock, green pepper, garlic, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 2 hours.
  • In a medium saute pan over high heat, add the grape-seed oil.
  • When the oil is hot, add the smoked sausage and brown evenly for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sausage to the pot with the beans.
  • Continue simmering the beans until tender, about 20 minutes more. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve over hot rice
Serves: 8
Nutrition + Show
Calories 347
Total Fat 14.3g
Saturated Fat 3.6g
Carbohydrates 36g
Fiber 4.6g
Sugars 3g
Protein 20g
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  • Reply Ana De- Jesus March 2, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    I love rice and beans! I had no idea that low sodium Parmesan was the cheese that contained the most protein either

  • Reply Dipti May 2, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Rice and beans is always a good combination. I usually prepare kidney beans with a gravy that goes well with rice. Thanks for sharing the recipe..

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