There are 20 amino acids our bodies need to keep healthy and fit, and 9 of these are key to supporting our well being and regarded as essential as they can only be sourced from the food we eat or make: these are methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, valine and histidine.
Before I trained as a Nutritionist I thought most Lentils were a great source of everything including the essential Amino Acids? I discovered during my training that they did not have the 9 essential amino acids, although can still be a great source of many rich nutrients and so are still a must have for any vegan, vegetarian or contributor of a varied diet. In my home, they feature at least 5 times a week for the host of health benefits they provide so keep them as a weekly staple along with other good protein sources that are rich sources of methionine and by doing this, you’ll be sure to get the right amounts of all of the amino acids your body needs to stay fitting fit and healthy.
Why are lentils and other legumes potent you might ask. Thats because they are protectors of cardiovascular disease, due to the amount of fibre, magnesium and homocysteine-lowering folate contained in them and being naturally low in fat and calories are great to have for adults. Children still need other well sourced fat but thats another blog post. I combine my lentils with another source of Methionine is whole-grain brown rice as having it together makes it a complete protein source.
Despite being in 2017, there is still a misconception that protein is better assimilated by eating animal protein and better absorbed than plant proteins. New research has now settled this and it is well known that protein absorption rate for meats, poultry and fish is between 85% to 99% and that Protein absorption rate is 97% for eggs, and 85%-93% for legumes. Thats important to note when your thinking about changing your diets from Meat to plant of fish based diets; and raw food can provide the assimilation of good protein effectively than cooked or processed food in diets if you follow a seasonal diet so Spring or Summer equinox will be best and most bio available time to have well sourced plant protein which is seasonal and available in nutrient rich varieties.
Methionine is linked in the formation of bone cartilage as it using sulphur which is a mineral essential to the production of bone cartilage as no other amino acids contains sulphur. Eat sulphur containing foods can help reduce swelling associated with arthritis, damaged tissue, and poor healing since Methionine is helpful in the production of muscle growth, and in the formation of creatine which is needed for cellular energy. The RDA is currently 13mcg per day for an adult.
It might be a wise move to increase the amount of Methionine e.g after a disease or trauma, and can be effective if taken as 3 times the suggested RDA when repairing tissues or cells and membranes. It has been proven to improve tone and pliability of the skin, hair, and in strengthening nails and in the detoxifying processes as sulphur contained in Methionine protects cells from pollutants and seen as essential to the absorption of zinc and selenium and in slowing down cell aging as it is believed to be a lipotropic agent preventing excess fat building up in the liver making it worth having.
Good plant-based sources include: sunflower seeds,hemp and chia seeds, Brazil nuts, oats, seaweed, wheat, figs, whole grain rice, beans, legumes, onions, cacao, and raisins, tuna, salmon Eggs, Mackerel, milk, Pork, turkey and lean beef ( I usually suggest limiting Meat due to the acidity it produces but the choice is yours).
Leucine is one of the best essential amino acids for stimulating muscle strength and growth, and also referred to as a BCAA (brand-chain amino acid). Leucine helps regulate your blood sugar and regulates insulin levels into the body during and after exercise and has been researched to help prevent or treat depression from 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, watercress, 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.
Isoleucine is also a Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) like the other three: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. Taking supplementation for people who experience low dietary protein intake is well researched and many studies have demonstrated improvements in muscle protein synthesis and increased muscle growth. This is particularly relevant for people who exercise often or compete as athletes. Other research has noted the benefits from this essential amino acid as effective in preventing fatigue in would be athletes. Leucine is important in its specific benefits of helping the body produce energy and heamoglobin. It’s also vital assisting in nitrogren growth within the muscle cells, especially in children.
Lysine is responsible for developmental growth and key in the production of carnitine which is responsible for converting fatty acids into fuel to lower cholesterol). It is also helpful for the bodies absorption of calcium to stabilise bone strength and helps in collagen production which is vital for children’s health and for older people. Deficiency can lead to nausea, depression, fatigue, muscle depletion and even osteoporosis.
Good plant-based sources of lysine include: beans (being the best), watercress, hemp seeds, chia seeds, spirulina, parsley, avocados, soy protein, almonds, cashews, and legumes such as lentils and chickpeas being two of the best. Lean beef, cheese, turkey, chicken, pork, soy, fish, shrimp, shellfish, nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, and lentils. The recommended daily intake for lysine is 30mg per kilogram of body weight, or 13.6mg per pound.
Phenalynaline – there are three forms: L-phenalynaline (a natural form found in protein) and D-phenalynaline (produced by a laboratory), and DL phenalynaline (a combination of both forms). Having this from food sources will always be best but it can be taken as a supplement. I do not favour enriched food products or synthetic produced amino acid but it essential from brain and memory alertness and in the transmission of th nerves synapses and can been used to treat depression 500-740mg daily with guidance from your GP or Nutritional Therapist. Phenylalanine is important in the body because it turns into tyrosine once ingested.
Good sources of Phenalynaline include: spirulina and other seaweed, pumpkin, beans, rice, avocado, almonds, peanuts, quinoa, figs, raisins, Eggs, leafy greens, most berries, olives, and seeds. lean beef, Turkey, lamb and Chicken
Tyrosine, will synthesise in the body from phenylalanine and found in a lot of high-protein food products such as pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds,sesame seeds,soya products,chicken, turkey, cottage cheese fish, milk, yogurt, avocados, lima beans, bananas and the white of an egg is great source and gives 250 mg per egg, while lean beef/lamb/pork/salmon/chicken/turkey contains about 1000 mg per 3 ounces (85 g) a portion which is another amino acid that’s needed to make proteins, brain chemicals, and thyroid hormones. Not getting enough can result in brain fog, lack of energy, depression, lack of appetite, or memory problems.
Threonine is vital in supporting a healthy immune system, the central nervous system ,a healthy heart and liver health. It full in the maintenance of balancing proteins within the body as it assists in overall repair, energy, and growth, and the body’s connective tissues and joints in producing glycine and serine in the body which are two essential amino acids needed for healthy bones, skin, hair, and nails. In the liver it helps with fatty acid digestion to prevent fatty acid build-up and liver failure.
The highest sources of this amino acid are known to be watercress and spirulina (which is far superior to any 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 all excellent sources of this amino acid and give a lot of benefit to a healthy diet.
Tryptophan is known as the relaxing amino acid and is essential for a healthy central nervous system, along with good sleep & for maintaining brain health. Like other amino acids it is essential for muscle growth and repair, and in helping support the bodies neurotransmitter function. It’s one key amino acids found in turkey, milk, and cheese that cause those foods to make you feel sleepy and relaxed. Trytophan converts to serotonin once it is in the brain, which creates that happy feeling and helps to lower stress and depression.
Good sources that include high amounts of trytophan include: Oats and Oat bran, seaweed, pumpkin, chai seeds, hemp seeds, spinach, watercress, soybeans, parsley, sweet potatoes, beans, beats, asparagus, mushrooms, all lettuces, leafy greens, beans, avocado, figs, winter squash, celery, peppers, carrots, chickpeas, onions, apples, oranges, bananas, quinoa, lentils, and fresh or frozen garden peas.
Valine is another BCAA that is necessary to optimise muscle growth and repair and key in endurance and for maintaining good muscle health and in regulating the absorption of other amino acids.
High sources of Valine are cheese, soybeans, beef, lamb, chicken, pork, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, soy, peanuts, fish, mushrooms, and whole grains. The recommended daily intake for valine is 26mg per kilogram of body weight, or 12mg per pound. Include: beans, spinach, legumes, broccoli, whole grains, figs, avocado, apples, sprouted grains and seeds, blueberries, cranberries, oranges, and apricots.
Histadine: helps transport neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) to the brain which makes it a no brainer to have in a diet as it helps the bodies muscular health and for supporting the body at cellular level for muscle cells and vitally important in the well being for healthy children. It also helps in the detoxification process for the body as it produces red and white blood cells that are vital for overall health and immunity. Has is often used medicinally in the treatment of anaemia. Not obtaining enough histidine can result in arthritis, libido disfunction and deafness.
Good sources of histidine include: whole grain brown rice, wheat, rye, seaweed, legumes, cantaloupe, hemp seeds, chia seeds, buckwheat, potatoes, cauliflower, poultry, fish, dairy, seafood, beans, eggs, buckwheat, corn, cauliflower, mushrooms, potatoes, bamboo shoots, bananas, cantaloupe and citrus fruits and corn. This nutrient is an essential amino acid for children. Histidine is a semi-essential amino acid that your body needs during periods of growth, stress, and recovery from illness and injury. This makes it an invaluable nutrient to have in regular quantities for adults suffering with ill health and for those growing children.
Reference used for dosage:
Staying Healthy with Nutrition – Elson M Haas 1992.