Amino Acid: Benefits & Food Sources
Amino acids are the basic components of protein. They perform several functions in the body and can be obtained from both animal and plant sources. Their role in health is so massive that skipping them is out of the option!
Protein is a macronutrient that is required to sustain life. For the body to absorb protein, it must be broken into simpler units called amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They are found in every cell of our body and are attributed to performing several functions. This blog will help you better understand why amino acids need to be prioritised on your plate.
Types of Amino Acids
Our body needs about 20 amino acids to build the different varieties of proteins credited to performing their unique functions. Out of these, 9 are known to be essential amino acids and are necessary to be ingested through the diet. For the most part, the remaining amino acids can be synthesised by our body and are called non-essential amino acids. The 9 essential amino acids are named as :
Foods Rich in Amino Acids
Egg:Eggs are an important source of vital nutrients, and are among the best sources of amino acids as well as antioxidants. The protein in eggs is dispensed equally between the egg white and egg yolk. The amino acid named cysteine that is found in eggs can act as an antioxidant to destroy the harmful free radicals produced in the body. Egg protein is also associated with antimicrobial activities. The amino acids in it are capable of binding to metal ions and are antiviral in nature, disrupting the cell walls of harmful microorganisms. Egg’s amino acids help in muscle function, support the skeletal system, prevent malnutrition due to protein deficiency, and can also decrease appetite, hinting at their role in weight loss. Each egg (50g) provides 6.6 g of protein.
Milk:Foods rich in amino acids include milk, which is also a good source of calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Milk contains the essential amino acid tryptophan, which acts as the precursor for niacin - a B vitamin. Milk is one of the few amino acid foods that are considered complete proteins because they contain all nine essential amino acids required by our body. Moreover, branched-chain amino acids, which are isoleucine, leucine, and valine, are found in a superior range in milk proteins when compared to many other foods. These amino acids, especially leucine, play a vital role in reducing muscle protein loss and stimulating its synthesis. Milk amino acids may also prove beneficial against high blood pressure and are antimicrobial.
Quinoa:Regarded as a golden grain, the protein content of quinoa is quite impressive due to a better distribution of essential amino acids when compared to other cereals. It is considered one of the best sources of plant-based foods that contain amino acids. It is an excellent protein option for vegetarians, since it contains all the dispensable amino acids needed for good health. It is also considered an alternative to dairy products, which is beneficial for vegans and those who are trying to cut dairy from their diet due to certain health conditions. It is quite a delicious grain and can be added to several recipes, like Vegetable Pizza and Quinoa Coconut Porridge.
Soy:Soy is not only a food high in amino acids, but is also acclaimed for the quality of its amino acids that demonstrate great digestibility when eaten. It imparts several advantages, like improving the diet and heart status while aiding in the prevention of some cellular irregularities. It can be consumed as chunks, as in this Soya Pulao or added to beverages such as soy milk.
Amino Acid Benefits
Transport of nutrients:Amino acids benefit us by taking part in several functions. They are also involved in the transportation of nutrients such as water, protein, glucose, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals in the body.
Hormonal function:Amino acids are essential for the synthesis and secretion of many hormones, including thyroid hormones that determine the amount of energy that the body makes. To some extent, amino acids also regulate insulin production, which helps to stabilise the blood glucose levels.
Help in the formation of neurotransmitters:Neurotransmitters act as messengers, and carry signals from one nerve cell to another. Amino acids play a key role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters like serotonin (the happy hormone) and dopamine. Amino acids also influence brain function and behaviour.
Required for formation of DNA:Amino acids are needed in the synthesis of DNA and RNA, the genetic material required for cell duplication and growth.
Reproduction:Foods high in amino acids help with male and female fertility, as well as foetal growth and development
Recovery from injury:Amino acids are beneficial in speeding up wound healing after injury and can reduce inflammation. They also help in the proper maintenance of collagen, the substance that forms the framework of our skin.
Defense system:Amino acids are involved in the production of enzymes like glutathione peroxidase that act as antioxidants and protect cells. While amino acid benefits our body in many ways, its toxin removing ability is unprecedented.
Amino acid foods play a vital role in performing many important bodily tasks and must be consumed through the diet. Egg, milk, soy, and quinoa are the best sources because they contain all the nine essential amino acids that aren’t naturally synthesised by our cells. From helping deliver essential nutrients to taking part in the production of hormones, humans cannot thrive without the valuable amino acids known to manoeuvre critical bodily functions.