Essential Proteins: How Many Are There?

AminoAcidProducts | February 04, 2021 | Amino Acids

The question, “how many essential proteins are there” is one that you might have come across especially in an examination. Before going on to answer this question, let’s spare a few seconds to understand what proteins are. These are compounds that carry out specific and critical roles in the human body. Proteins are gotten from amino acids. To understand this, just think of a necklace made with beads. If the string holding the necklace together is removed then the beads will fall apart. You can compare an intact necklace to proteins. Amino acids (the beads) are linked together by a bond (the string) to form proteins (the necklace).

These amino acids are very useful in producing neurotransmitters and hormones. Some athletes use the supplement form to naturally enhance their athletic performance. There are different categories of proteins, we have the essential proteins, the conditionally essential proteins, and the nonessential proteins. There are various determining factors for each of these categories. In this article, we will be focusing on the essential proteins, their functions, and food sources.

What Are Essential Proteins

Proteins are made up of nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. All the categories of proteins are very beneficial for our health. But they are not all produced within your body, an example is the essential proteins. This category of proteins can not be produced by your body. You can get them only from various food sources. Essential proteins are best gotten from animal proteins such as eggs, poultry, and meat.

When consumed these proteins are then dissolved into amino acids. The body uses the amino acid for various processes like muscle building and immune function regulation.

nine essential proteins

How Many Essential Proteins are There?

There are only nine essential proteins or amino acids. They include histidine, leucine, isoleucine, methionine, lysine, threonine, phenylalanine, valine, and tryptophan. These proteins each have their unique role in our body:

  1. Phenylalanine: Neurotransmitters like dopamine, tyrosine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine use this essential protein as a precursor. It has a vital part to play in the function and structure of proteins and enzymes.
  2. Valine: This is gotten from amino acids that has three branches. It helps to trigger the growth of muscles and their regeneration. It is also involved in the production of energy.
  3. Threonine: Threonine makes up an integral part of some structural proteins like elastin and collagen. These structural proteins are important features of connective tissue and skin components.
  4. Tryptophan: This essential protein is commonly said to be the cause of drowsiness, but there are several other of its functions. It is needed to maintain a proper balance of nitrogen. Serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter for the regulation of sleep, mood, and appetite also uses tryptophan as its precursor.
  5. Methionine: Methionine has a necessary role in detoxification and metabolism. It is also important for zinc absorption and the growth of tissues.
  6. Leucine: Leucine is gotten from an amino acid with three branches, just like valine. It has an important role in the synthesis of protein and repair of muscle. Leucine also regulates the level of blood sugar, production of growth hormones, and triggers wound healing.
  7. Isoleucine: This is the third branch of the same amino acid where leucine and valine are gotten from. It is useful in the metabolism of muscle and has a high concentration in the tissues of the muscle. Our immune system needs it to function, it is used in the production of hemoglobin and for the regulation of energy.
  8. Lysine: Our body uses lysine to synthesize protein, produce enzymes and hormones, and absorb calcium. This essential protein is also useful in the production of energy, elastin, collagen, and immune function.
  9. Histidine: This essential protein is used in the production of a neurotransmitter called histamine. Histamine plays a vital role in immune response, sexual function, sleeping and waking cycles, and digestion. The nervous system also needs histamine to maintain the barrier that surrounds the nerve cell for its protection, the myelin sheath.

Now you have seen not only how many essential proteins there are but also their different functions. The roles of these essential proteins are so vital to our body that a lack of them may result in essential protein deficiencies. These deficiencies can affect the whole body including the reproductive, nervous, digestive, and immune systems.

Food Sources For Essential Proteins

The likelihood of you suffering from any essential protein deficiency is reduced if you eat food that contains a lot of these proteins. Luckily, a lot of food has a high content of essential proteins, so it is easier to satisfy your daily needs.

The recommended daily intake of these proteins per 1kg or 2.2 pounds body weight are:

  • 14mg of histidine
  • 19mg of isoleucine
  • 42mg of leucine
  • 38mg of lysine
  • 19mg of methionine
  • 33mg of phenylalanine
  • 20mg of threonine
  • 5mg of tryptophan
  • 24mg of valine

Foods that have all of the nine essential proteins are known as complete proteins, they include;

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Dairy Products
  • Quinoa
  • Soy
  • Buckwheat

Incomplete proteins do not contain all essential proteins, they lack one or more, these are sources like nuts, beans, whole grains, vegetables, and seeds.


If you choose one or more of the incomplete protein food sources, the essential proteins you need will be balanced out.

If you have been experiencing mood swings, low athletic performance, weight loss, or muscle loss, you might want to include more of this highly proteinous food in your diet. We already saw what they are capable of doing.

These vital essential protein compounds can be gotten from both plant and animal-based foods so you still get to eat your favorite dishes with the bonus of a healthy and balanced diet.

Just in case you are going on a trip where you are not sure how the supply of food will be, then you can get some protein supplements. The benefits of this supplement include improved sleep and mood, enhance exercise performance, prevention of muscle loss, and may trigger weight loss.

Because essential proteins are very vital to our body we must stay informed about them, their functions, sources, and knowing how many essential proteins are there.

Essential proteins

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