Individuals aim to enhance their health and wellness. They do this through healthy eating and exercise routines that improve the functions of the body and maintain a healthy weight. This can be difficult and challenging for most people as the demands of modern society can derail their health goals and activities with loaded work schedules and fast food items that are more convenient than healthy. It comes as no surprise then, that people will look for certain vitamins, minerals, supplements, and food items that can boost their health. One such supplement needed by the body to function at optimal levels is known as Amino acids. For people who wish to take or consume such amino acids naturally however, they may be asking- “What are the best food sources for these essential Amino Acids?”. In this article, let us look at what essential amino acids are and the best food sources for these amino acids.
Amino Acids: A Brief Backgrounder
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They are compounds that combine and form proteins. Protein consumed by individuals is broken down by the digestive system and is then converted into amino acids. These amino acids are then used synergistically by the body to accomplish certain biological functions. In general, people need twenty (20) type of amino acids to continue their routine functions and optimal health. There are nine (9) amino acids, though, that are known as essential amino acids which can be obtained by people through the consumption of different items such as dairy, quinoa, buckwheat, soy, tofu, eggs, and meat. The other eleven (11) amino acids can naturally be produced by the human body and are usually no longer needed for acquisition through the consumption of certain food items.
Some of the most important contributions of amino acids are the prevention of certain illnesses, transportation of nutrients, and the causation of various chemical reactions. People with deficiencies in terms of amino acid levels in the body may result in slower growth or development in children, reduced mental alertness, issues in terms of fertility, depression, problems with the digestive system, and reduced immunity. These essential amino acids have their own unique contributions to the body which shall be discussed in the later sections of this article.
The Different Essential Amino Acids
Listed below are the different essential amino acids and their specific contributions to the human body:
This essential amino acid is important when it comes to muscle development, bone strength maintenance, injury or surgery recovery, hormone, antibody, or enzyme regulation. Lysine may also have effects that are antiviral. Evidence suggests that those with a deficiency in lysine may lead to anxiety that is stress-induced.
This essential amino acid is responsible for tissue repair, blood cell creation, and bodily growth. Histidine also helps in the maintenance of the myelin sheath, a form of nerve cell covering. Histidine is metabolized into another compound known as histamine which is critical for digestion, reproductive health, and immunity. One study even showed that women who were obese and afflicted with metabolic syndrome and were given histidine supplement showed reduced resistance to insulin and lower BMIs. Those with histidine deficiency may experience low blood and anemia which has been observed in people with kidney disease and arthritis
This essential amino acid is critical for teeth and skin health, and is an integral component of elastin, collagen, and enamel. It can help people in the metabolism of fats and can aid people in experiencing mild depression, anxiety, and indigestion. One study pointed out that threonine deficiency can lead to immune system issues.
Similar to the effects of the amino acid cysteine, methionine contributes to the skin’s flexibility and health. This essential amino acid can also aid in keeping the nails strong and in ensuring the body’s selenium and zinc absorption, plus heavy metal removal from the body such as mercury and lead.
This essential amino acid is critical for improved emotional calm, coordination of the muscles, and mental focus. Valine supplements may be taken for better energy, improved tissue repair, and enhanced muscle development. Those with a deficiency in valine can also experience decreased mental function and sleeplessness or insomnia.
This essential amino acid helps in the healing of wounds, enhanced immunity, regulation of blood sugar levels, and production of hormones. It is mostly found in muscle tissues and helps in the regulation of energy. Adults who are older are more at risk when it comes to isoleucine deficiency which can lead to shaking and wasting of muscles.
Blood sugar levels can be regulated by this essential amino acid and it can also assist the body in the repair of bones and muscles. It is also a critical compound in the healing of wounds and growth hormone production. Those with a deficiency in leucine can experience fatigue, hair loss, and rashes on the skin.
Phenylalanine aids the body in processing enzymes, proteins, as well as other amino acids. The body converts it into tyrosine for certain functions of the brain. Deficiency in phenylalanine is rare but when it does occur, it can lead to infants experiencing poor weight gain.
Tryptophan is important for normal growth in infants. It is considered as an initiating agent for both melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin helps in sleep regulation while Serotonin has been shown to aid in the regulation of pain, mood, sleep, and appetite.
Best Food Sources for Essential Amino Acids
Listed below are some of the best food sources for amino acids:
|Essential Amino Acid||Main Food Sources|
|Lysine||Pumpkin seeds, quinoa, black beans, eggs, and soy|
|Histidine||Whole grains, meat, and fish|
|Threonine||Cottage cheese and wheat germ|
|Methionine||Seeds, nuts, grains, and eggs|
|Valine||Vegetables, whole grains, mushrooms, and peanuts|
|Isoleucine||Seeds, nuts, lentils, cheese, eggs, and poultry|
|Leucine||Beans, dairy, and soy|
|Phenylalanine||Nuts, beans, fish, and soy|
|Tryptophan||Turkey, chicken, cheese, and wheat germ|