From only 20 amino acids, the body is able to generate many thousands of unique proteins with different functions. Each one of these proteins contains between 50 and 2000 amino acids, connected in varying sequences. From the quality of your body to that of your hair, skin and nails; protein’s amino corrosive chains perform vital tasks inside your body that make it a prime supplement to make certain you get enough of.
How do we make sure that we are meeting our body’s amino acid requirements through our diet? The answer is surprisingly simple enough – all we have to do is eat a recommended amount of protein each day and consume a variety of whole foods. Animal proteins are called complete proteins because they naturally contain all nine essential amino acids in each serving. But what about those of us who don’t want to eat meat? What are our options?
Plant proteins, with the exception of quinoa and a few others, are naturally lower in some of the essential amino acids and are therefore called incomplete proteins. However, by eating a diverse diet of vegetables, grains, and legumes, you can easily create complete proteins. It is not necessary that these sources will be available easily. Getting it from external sources like by using supplements can help you to get better balance of amino acids in the body. Out of the 20 amino acids that exist, 9 are essential and 11 are non-essential. Essential amino acids are the building blocks of protein that our body can’t produce by itself. In other words, if we don’t take them, we won’t get enough of them. Below are list of the nine essential amino acids and plant-based foods that are good sources of each.
Leucine is one of the best essential amino acids for stimulating muscle strength and growth. Leucine helps regulate your blood sugar by moderating insulin into the body during and after exercise and can even help prevent and treat depression by the way it acts on neurotransmitters in the brain.
Good plant-based sources include: seaweed, pumpkin, peas and pea protein, whole grain rice, sesame seeds, turnip greens, soy, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, figs, avocados, raisins, dates, apples, blueberries, olives and even bananas. Don’t limit yourself to one food of these choices and aim for a serving of either seaweed, leafy greens, hemp seeds, chia seeds, grains, legumes, seeds or beans at each meal to be sure you get enough high-quality plant protein.
It is an isolated form of leucine that specifically helps the body produce energy and hemoglobin. It role is to assist in nitrogren growth within the muscle cells, especially in children. Plant-based sources include: soy, cashews, almonds, oats, lentils, beans, brown rice, cabbage, hemp seeds, chia seeds, spinach, pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, cranberries, quinoa, blueberries, apples, and kiwis.
Lysine is responsible for proper growth and in the production of carnitine (a nutrient responsible for converting fatty acids into fuel to lower cholesterol). It also helps the body absorb calcium for even further bone strength and also aids in collagen production. It’s important to get enough of this amino acid since deficiency can lead to nausea, depression, fatigue, muscle depletion and even osteoporosis.
Good plant-based sources of lysine include: beans (the best), watercress, hemp seeds, chia seeds, spirulina, parsley, avocados, soy protein, almonds, cashews, and some legumes with lentils and chickpeas being two of the best.
Methionine helps form cartilage in the body through the use of sulfur. Sulfur is essential for the production of bone cartilage and no other essential amino acids contain sulfur aside from methionine. People who don’t eat enough sulfur-containing foods to produce methionine in the body may suffer arthritis, damaged tissue and slow healing of wounds. Methionine also aids in the production of muscle growth and formation of creatine, needed for optimal cellular energy.
Good plant-based sources of sulfur include: sunflower seed butter and sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, Brazil nuts, oats, seaweed, wheat, figs, whole grain rice, beans, legumes, onions and raisins.
Phenylalanine is important in the body because it turns into tyrosine once ingested, which is another amino acid that’s needed to make proteins, brain chemicals and thyroid hormones. Not obtaining enough of this amino acid can result in brain fog, lack of energy, depression, lack of appetite, or memory problems.
Good sources include: spirulina and other seaweed, pumpkin, beans, rice, avocado, almonds, peanuts, quinoa, figs, raisins, leafy greens, most berries, olives, and seeds.
Threonine supports a healthy immune system, heart, liver and central nervous system health. It also helps maintain a balance of proteins within the body to assist in overall repair, energy, and growth. This amino acid also helps the body’s connective tissues and joints in good health by producing glycine and serine in the body, two essential amino acids needed for healthy bones, skin, hair, and nails. The highest sources of this amino acid are: spirulina (which even exceed meat), pumpkin, leafy greens, hemp seeds, chia seeds, soybeans, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and sunflower butter, almonds, avocados, figs, raisins, quinoa, and wheat. Sprouted grains are also excellent sources of this amino acid as well.
It is known as the relaxing amino acid, tryptophan has major role in forming healthy nervous system and brain health, along with sleep, muscle growth and repair and overall neurotransmitter function. It’s one of the most prominent amino acids found in milk and cheese that cause those foods to make you feel sleepy and relaxed.
Plant-based sources that include high amounts of tryptophan include: oats and oat bran, seaweed, hemp seeds, chia seeds, spinach, watercress, soybeans, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, parsley, beans, beats, asparagus, mushrooms, all lettuces, leafy greens, beans, avocado, figs, winter squash, celery, peppers, carrots, chickpeas, onions, apples, oranges, bananas, quinoa, lentils, and peas.
Valine is another BCAA needed for optimal muscle growth and repair. It is also responsible for endurance and the overall maintenance of good muscle health.
High sources of valine include: beans, spinach, legumes, broccoli, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, soy, peanuts, whole grains, figs, avocado, apples, sprouted grains and seeds, blueberries, cranberries, oranges, and apricots.
This amino acid helps transport neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) to the brain and also helps overall muscle health within each muscle cells. It even helps to detoxify the body by producing red and white blood cells needed for overall health and immunity. Not obtaining enough histidine can result in arthritis, sexual disfunction, and even deafness. It can also make the body more susceptible to the AIDS virus.
Good plant-based sources of histidine include: rice, wheat, rye, seaweed, beans, legumes, hemp seeds, chia seeds, buckwheat, potatoes, cauliflower and corn.
Amino acid supplements are most often associated with bodybuilders. After all, muscle consists of protein and amino acids do help build muscle. But individual amino acids also serve a variety of health-promoting roles in the body. When you digest protein, your body breaks it down into individual amino acids and then reconstitutes them as needed.