Essential Amino Acids – The Ultimate Guide
Amino acids are commonly known as the building blocks of proteins. As discussed in our previous blog, proteins play many critical roles in the body. Our body needs 20 different amino acids to maintain good health and normal functioning.
They’ve often categorised into different types – essential, conditionally essential, or nonessential depending on several factors.
In this blog, we will tell you everything you need to know about essential amino acids, including their functions and possible food sources.
What are Essential Amino Acids?
Amino acids are organic compounds composed of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, along with a variable side chain group. As mentioned earlier, our body needs 20 different amino acids to grow and function. Only nine amino acids are classified as essential.
They are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Unlike other amino acids, essential amino acids can’t be produced by our body and must be obtained through food.
When we eat protein, it’s broken down into amino acids, which are used to help our body with various processes like regulating immune function and building muscle.
Their Functions in Our Body
- Isoleucine: Blood-sugar regulation, growth and repair of muscle tissue, hemoglobin development and energy regulation
- Leucine: Blood-sugar regulation, growth, and repair of muscle tissue, hormone production, wound healing and energy regulation
- Lysine: Development and regulation of collagen, antibodies, hormones, and enzymes, promotes calcium absorption, growth, and repair of muscle tissue
- Methionine: May prevent arterial fat build-up, act as an antioxidant and promotes collagen synthesis
- Phenylalanine: Neurotransmitter function and increases blood levels of norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine
- Threonine: Antibody production and plays a role in fat metabolism and immune function
- Tryptophan: Precursor for serotonin (aids sleep, appetite and mood, and combats anxiety) and niacin production
- Valine: Growth and repair of muscle tissue, energy regulation, and niacin production
- Histidine: Growth, tissue repair, and histamine development
As you can see, all nine essential amino acids are involved in critical processes in our body. That’s why essential amino acid deficiencies can negatively impact our entire body including nervous, reproductive, immune, and digestive systems.
Possible Food Sources
As our body cannot produce essential amino acids, they must be provided through our daily diet. Fortunately, many foods are rich in essential amino acids, making it easier to mee our daily requirements.
Foods that contain all nine essential amino acids are known as complete proteins – meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Sacha inchi, soy, quinoa, and buckwheat are plant-based sources that contain essential amino acids, making them complete protein sources.
Other plant-based sources like beans and nuts are considered incomplete, as they lack one or more essential amino acids.
Consuming essential amino acids is crucial for good health. Eating a variety of foods that are rich in protein every day is the best way for everyone to ensure that they are getting adequate amounts of essential amino acids.
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