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Best amino acid foods

amino acid food sources
If you’re looking to find what are amino acids in foods, what amino acids do and how you can add more of them to your diet, you’ve come to the right place.

Best amino acid foods

Often known as building blocks of protein, amino acids play a critical role in your body.

In this article, we’ll look at amino acids within food.

We’ll look at the best sources of amino acids and what you can eat as a veggie or a vegan, and what addition you can make to your diet to make sure getting enough of them.

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are essential for helping your body function.

They’re a group of organic molecules or compounds that combine to make proteins.

They’re needed for important processes like the building of proteins and the production of hormones and transmit signals to your nerves, glands and muscles.

Amino acids are split into three categories:

  • Essential
  • Nonessential
  • Conditional

There’s 20 in total, nine of which are known as essential and should be obtained as part of a diet.

The remaining 11 can be manufactured by the body, which means they’re no less important, but they are not crucial in terms of diet.1

What are the nine essential amino acids?

  1. Lysine

Lysine plays an important role in helping to build muscle and maintaining bone strength.

It also aids recovery from injury or surgery by controlling hormones, antibodies and enzymes.

  1. Histidine

Histidine helps support growth, the production of blood cells and tissue repair.  

Your body processes histidine into histamine, which is very important for immunity, generative health and digestion.

  1. Threonine

Threonine improves your skin and strengthens your teeth.

It contains collagen which is great for your skin and helps support your tooth enamel.

  1. Methionine

Methionine plays a role in keeping your skin and hair healthy.

It also helps keep your nails strong.

  1. Valine

Valine is essential for mental focus and muscle coordination.

It’s often used as a supplement to help muscle growth, tissue repair and energy replacement.

  1. Isoleucine

Isoleucine aids in wound healing supports your immune system and helps regulate blood sugar and hormone production. 

  1. Leucine

Leucine helps regulate blood sugar levels, aids the growth and repair of muscles and bone.

It also aids the production of the growth hormone and helps wound healing.

  1. Phenylalanine

Phenylalanine helps the body use other amino acids as well as proteins and enzymes.

The body converts phenylalanine to tyrosine, which is necessary for specific brain functions.

  1. Tryptophan

Tryptophan is necessary for proper growth in infants and is a precursor of serotonin and melatonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates appetite, sleep, mood, and pain. Melatonin also regulates sleep.

How do you get all 9 essential amino acids?

Your body does not produce amino acids, instead, you must get them through your diet.

It was previously understood that people needed to eat foods that provided all nine essential amino acids in one meal.

However, today those recommendations are different.

This means that those who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet can get their essential amino acids from various plant foods throughout the day, rather than in one go.

Which foods have all 9 essential amino acids?

Good dietary sources include:

  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy

However, those who follow a veggie or vegan diet can get amino acids by eating:

  • Tofu
  • Soy
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa

What essential amino acid can I find in each food?

  • Lysine is in meat, eggs, soy, black beans, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds.
  • Histidine is in meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
  • Threonine is in cottage cheese and wheat germ.
  • Methionine is in eggs, grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Valine is in soy, cheese, peanuts, mushrooms, whole grains, and vegetables
  • Isoleucine is found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, lentils, nuts, and seeds
  • Leucine is found in dairy, soy, beans, and legumes.
  • Phenylalanine is in dairy, meat, poultry, soy, fish, beans, and nuts.
  • Tryptophan is in most high-protein foods, including wheat germ, cottage cheese, chicken, and turkey.

What vegetables have amino acids?

Essential amino acids have been found in broccoli, two varieties of cauliflower, nine varieties of carrots and four varieties of sweet corn.2

What are the non-essential amino acids?

Non-essential merely means that your body produces the amino acid. S

o they’re not something you would require to get from food, these include:

  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamic acid
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine

Conditional amino acids

Conditional amino acids are often classed as nonessential, except for times of illness and stress.3

Conditional amino acids include:

  • Arginine
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamine
  • Tyrosine
  • Glycine
  • Ornithine
  • Proline
  • Serine

Are amino acids safe for everyone?

Yes, your amino acid levels are important to your muscle development and strength.

Speak to a healthcare professional to understand which amino acids you might be low in to decipher whether or not you need to look at taking a supplement.

Any sides effects of eating amino acid foods?

Foods containing amino acids are commonly safe for people.

Obviously, if you have an allergy to foods such as:

  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Dairy

Then you may want to consider another food source or amino acid supplement to ensure you get the right amounts.

How many amino acids should we be getting per day?

As listed above, you should look to try and get a mixture of the 11 essential amino acids into your diet each day.

This does not have to be a part of the same meal and can be spread out throughout the day.

Summary of amino acid foods

Amino acids are essential for your body’s health.

Helping build muscle and supporting muscle growth.

You should try and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Eating of a range of foods containing protein is the best to ensure that you are getting the right amounts of essential amino acids.

With the variety of food available in the modern day, amino acid deficiencies are rare for people who are generally in good health.

If you are looking to start taking an amino acid supplement you should speak with a health professional.

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 7 September 2021

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