Amino acids are often called the building blocks of life, and with good reason. These organic compounds make up the proteins that build, maintain, and replace body tissues. From the tips of your hair to your innermost organs, proteins keep the body in good working order. In addition, some are used for energy. Deficiencies in amino acids can have disastrous effects on your overall health; this introduction to amino acids will help you to understand how they work and where to find them.
Essential Amino Acids
While your body uses over twenty amino acids on a daily basis, there are nine essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own. These include:
- Histidine – vital to a variety of functions throughout the body, such as immune responses, heart rate regulation, the growth and repair of tissues, and the synthesis of blood cells.
- Isoleucine – helps in the synthesis of biochemical compounds which leads to energy production. It can also increase endurance and stamina.
- Leucine – stimulates protein synthesis, making it essential to growth and muscle building.
- Lysine – plays an essential role in the conversion of fatty acids into energy and the reduction of cholesterol levels.
- Methionine – helps in the breakdown of fats and in the synthesis of many important neurotransmitters.
- Phenylalanine – is used to make brain chemicals that control mood, memory, energy, and appetite, and manage pain.
- Threonine – helps to maintain proper protein balance in the body. It is important for the formation of tooth enamel, collagen, and elastin.
- Tryptophan – plays important roles in the regulation of food intake, the maintenance of good sleep, and mood regulation.
- Valine – is needed for muscle metabolism, tissue repair, and the maintenance of a proper nitrogen balance in the body.
Since your body cannot manufacture these compounds, it is essential that you consume them as part of your diet.
Where to Find Them
Animal foods; such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products; contain all nine of the essential amino acids:
- Dairy Products
Vegetarian Sources of Complete Protein
Plant foods, on the other hand, are usually missing a few. The one plant food known to contain all nine essential amino acids is soy. It is vital for vegetarians to obtain complete protein, which they may do by consuming organic soy products and/or by combining plant foods to obtain all the essential amino acids. Some plant food combinations are:
- Legumes (peas, lentils, beans) with grains (such as lentil soup with bread)
- Legumes with nuts (such as peas with slivered almonds)
- Legumes with seeds (such as black beans with sunflower seeds)
- Grains plus nuts (such as a nut butter sandwich on whole grain bread)
- Grains plus seeds (such as a rice casserole containing sesame seeds)
In today’s busy world, it may be difficult to maintain healthy levels of amino acids in the body. Additionally, several studies indicate that increasing intake of amino acids can maximize muscle growth and strengthening, since muscles are essentially made of protein. In cases such as these, it may be beneficial to support your healthy diet with all-natural amino acid containing supplements.
- Essential Amino Acids
- Conditionally Essential Amino Acids
- Non-Essential Amino Acids
- When to Choose Liquid Mineral Supplements