Essential Amino Acids – Definition, Benefits, and Sources


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Amino acids are the basic building blocks of proteins which are compounds that are essential for critical roles in your body. They are further required for processes like the synthesis of hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters. Amino acids can be categorized as essential, conditionally essential, and non-essential ones depending upon certain factors.

What Are Essential Amino Acid?

Amino acids are compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, along with a variable side chain group. The body requires 20 different amino acids to grow and function properly. These are important for your health. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body and should be obtained through your diet. These are histidine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, tryptophan, threonine, valine, and phenylalanine.

Non-essential amino acids are those which are made by a body, and hence you do not need to get them in sufficient quantity from external sources. Usually, the best sources of essential amino acids are meat and eggs.

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Health Benefits Of Essential Amino Acids

Amino acid boost body performance. The three branched-chain essential amino acids can help in reducing fatigue, stimulating muscle recovery after an exercise session, boost health in athletics. Studies show that athletes with branched-chain amino acids supplements have improved performance and muscle recovery. They promote weight loss. Studies have shown that branched-chain essential amino acids are effectively stimulating fat loss. The study has shown that 14 grams of branched-chain amino acid significantly reduces the fat in the body. Amino acids help in improving mood and sleep. Tryptophan is needed for the production of serotonin which acts as a major neurotransmitter of the human body. It is essential in regulating sleep cycles, behavior, and depression. Low serotonin levels are linked with depression, sleep disturbances. Hence supplementing with tryptophan produces all the symptoms.

Foods items that contain all nine essential amino acids are referred to as complete proteins. Complete protein sources include:

  • Meat
  • Dairy Products
  • Seafood
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
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Soya beans, buckwheat, quinoa are some of the plant-based foods that contain all the nine essential amino acids, and they are complete protein sources as well. Some other plant-based plants protein sources are beans and nuts. However, they are also considered incomplete as they lack one or more of the essential amino acids. If you are following a plant-based diet, then you can ensure proper intake of all essential amino acids as long as you eat a variety of plant proteins each day. You need to ensure protein intake in your body. 

Choose a variety of incomplete proteins such as beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetables can ensure that your essential amino acid needs are met. If you choose to exclude animal products from your diet, you can go with plant-based products. Essential amino acids perform functions such as protein synthesis, tissue repair, and nutrient absorption. Some may also prevent muscle loss and help in improving mood, sleep, athletic performance, and weight loss. Fortunately, these vital compounds are found in many dietary foods and help you meet your daily needs through a healthy and balanced diet.

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