We all know a friend or a loved one who wants to improve their health and quality of life. They may aim for weight loss or improved nutritional intake. Which will result in improved immunity, reduced risk of developing health issues, and longevity. But they may be facing an uphill battle as the demands of modern society. This due to increased workload and the ever-changing needs of the modern family. It is in the best interest of everyone then, to know more and find out about the good sources of amino acids for improved health and wellness. In this article, we will look at what amino acids are, the role of each amino acid in the functions of the human body, and what are the best sources for amino acids.
Amino Acids: A Brief Backgrounder
Usually called the building blocks of proteins, amino acids have been proven to be very important compounds that aid many critical functions of the human body. Some of these critical functions include the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters and the production of proteins. A number of these amino acids can be taken as a form of supplement for improved mood and to enhance the athletic performance of individuals and are usually classified as nonessential, conditionally essential, and those that are essential.
At the cellular level, amino acids have been identified as compounds that are organic and are made up of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon along with a side-chain type that is variable. To be able for the human body to function properly, the body will require twenty (20) amino acids and out of these 20, nine (9) are considered essential amino acids. These amino acids that are essential include valine, tryptophan, threonine, phenylalanine, methionine, lysine, leucine, isoleucine, and histidine. Different from amino acids that are nonessential, these essential amino acids can’t be produced by the individual’s body and must be acquired through the consumption of different food items. Some of the primary sources of the said amino acids include poultry, eggs, meat, and other sources of proteins.
Once individuals consume protein, it is further processed into the said amino acids. These resulting compounds will then be utilized by the body to accomplish various biological functions such as immune function regulation and the production or development of muscles.
But what about conditionally essential amino acids? These are nonessential forms of this compound that, based on the requirements of the individual, could be identified as conditionally essential. One example of a conditionally essential amino acid is the compound arginine. Cancer patients may need more than just the arginine naturally produced by the human body. Arginine supplements may be taken by the individual to improve his or her cancer management.
What do these essential Amino Acids do for the human body?
Listed below are some of the critical functions of some of these aforementioned amino acids:
- Phenylalanine: This essential amino acid has been identified as the precursor of a number of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, tyrosine, dopamine, and epinephrine. Phenylalanine also contributes to the form and function of various proteins and enzymes.
- Valine: An amino acid that has three (3) branches. Valine helps in the stimulation of muscle development and repair and is directly contributory to the production of energy.
- Threonine: This essential amino acid has been considered crucial in the structures of compounds such as collagen and elastin which are both important as part of connective tissue and skin. It can also contribute to the enhanced immunity and metabolism of individuals.
- Tryptophan: While commonly linked with the feeling of being drowsy, this essential amino acid can help in the production of serotonin. Serotonin is an enzyme that helps in the regulation of mood, sleep, and appetite. Tryptophan has also been shown to regulate the levels of nitrogen within an individual’s system.
- Methionine: Methionine is an essential amino acid that can help in detoxifying the body and in improving metabolism. It is also an important compound for tissue growth and the body’s ability to absorb minerals such as selenium and zinc.
- Leucine: This amino acid has a branched-chain similar to valine. It is important to the body due to its contribution to protein synthesis. It also helps in:
- Muscle repair
- Regulation of blood sugar levels
- Wound healing
- Production of hormones for proper growth and development
- Isoleucine: This compound is important for the metabolism of muscles and can be commonly found in the tissue of muscles. It can also contribute to the function of the immune system, the production of hemoglobin, and the regulation of energy.
- Lysine– Lysine, on the other hand, aid in the synthesis of proteins and in the production of other enzymes and hormones. It can also aid in the production of energy, improved immune function, and the production of collagen and elastin.
- Histidine: Histidine is important in that it is essential in the production of histamine, a hormone that is critical to the immune response of the body as it acts as a form of neurotransmitter. Histidine and the resulting compound histamine are important for certain bodily functions such as sleep regulation, sexual function, and digestion.
What are some of the Good Sources for increased Amino Acid Intake?
There are a number of different sources for an individual to increase their intake of amino acids. Some of the food items that contain all of the essential amino acids are called complete proteins. Some examples of complete protein food items include dairy products, eggs, poultry, seafood, and meat. There are other plant-based food items that are considered complete protein foods as well such as buckwheat, quinoa, and soy. Other plant-based food items lack one or more of the aforecited amino acids resulting in them being labeled as incomplete protein foods. Some examples of these are nuts and beans.