What Food Has All 9 Essential Amino Acids?
There are so many food choices out there, with different benefits, meaning it is so important to have a balanced diet. But something that often isn’t considered are amino acids. So, in this blog post we will share information on what the essential amino acids are, foods high in essential amino acids and how and why it’s great to incorporate them into your diet.
What Are Essential Amino Acids?
Your body needs 20 different amino acids to grow and function properly. They’re categorised as essential, conditionally essential, or nonessential depending on several factors. While all 20 of these are important for your health, only 9 are classified as essential. National Library Of Medicine
These nine essential amino acids each perform important roles in your body. They’re involved in many processes, such as tissue growth, energy production, immune function, and nutrient absorption. They are the building blocks of protein, and without them, you can’t repair and rejuvenate your muscles.
However, your body can’t produce these essential amino acids, so you need to get them from your diet.
What Are The Nine Essential Amino Acids?
There are nine essential amino acids, each of which perform several important jobs in your body. Here are the nine essential amino acids and their roles in our bodies:
- Phenylalanine: Your body turns this amino acid into neurotransmitters, and it plays an integral role in the structure and function of proteins and enzymes and the production of other amino acids.
- Valine: The first of three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) on this list. Valine helps to stimulate muscle growth and regeneration and is also involved in energy production.
- Threonine: This is a principal part of structural proteins, such as collagen and elastin, which are important components of your skin and connective tissue. It also plays a role in fat metabolism and immune function.
- Tryptophan: Often associated with drowsiness, tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates your appetite, sleep, and mood.
- Methionine: This amino acid plays an important role in metabolism and detoxification. It’s also necessary for tissue growth and the absorption of zinc and selenium.
- Leucine: This is the second BCAA that is critical for protein synthesis and muscle repair. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, stimulates wound healing, and produces growth hormones.
- Isoleucine: The last of the three BCAAs, isoleucine is involved in muscle metabolism and is heavily concentrated in muscle tissue. It’s also important for immune function, haemoglobin production, and energy regulation.
- Lysine: Lysine plays major roles in protein synthesis, calcium absorption, and the production of hormones and enzymes. It’s also important for energy production, immune function, and the production of collagen and elastin.
- Histidine: Your body uses this amino acid to produce histamine, a neurotransmitter that is vital to immune response, digestion, sexual function, and sleep-wake cycles. It’s critical for maintaining the myelin sheath, a protective barrier that surrounds your nerve cells.
Foods High in Essential Amino Acids
We all know the importance of eating fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, healthy fats, plant-based proteins and whole grains to ensure you are getting enough protein, but as you get older, it’s particularly important to focus on foods high in essential amino acids to minimise muscle loss.
Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fish contain all nine essential amino acids. This means they are ‘complete’ sources of protein. Soy and pea protein are also plant-based complete protein sources.
Nuts, seeds, beans, peas, and whole grains are excellent sources of protein but only form a complete protein when they are consumed together. Each on its own is lacking a few of the essential amino acids. However, not to worry, if you’re following a plant-based diet, you can still ensure proper intake of all nine essential amino acids by eating a variety of plant proteins in each day.
Here we go into a greater level of detail about each protein source:
Lean meats are a great way to make sure you are getting protein and all 9 essential amino acids, without overdoing the fats. Turkey, lean meats, and poultry are all high in essential amino acids and relatively low in saturated fats when compared to red meats.
Looking for a great weeknight dinner? Try our Chicken Katsu Curry recipe.
Fish of all types contain so many of your essential micronutrients and the essential amino acids. An excellent source of essential amino acids and heart healthy fatty acid, Omega 3s, is found in salmon. It’s an easy fish to prepare, tastes good and can help you limit your chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
Cottage cheese, low-fat cheeses, and dairy products like yogurts for your smoothies have all 9 essential amino acids, are high in protein, as well as vitamins A, D, E, B12, and an important source of calcium, which contributes to bone health.
Try this Vegan Bangers And Mash Pie, if you’re looking for a warming dinner with some dairy (you can swap any plant-based alternatives in or out)!
One egg contains all nine essential amino acids needed to make up a complete protein, as well as vitamins A, D, E, K, B2, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper.
Here are a couple of protein-packed egg recipes to try:
Quinoa is a super grain for good reason. It is one of the few plant foods that is high in protein and contains all 9 of the essential amino acids while also being high in fibre, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and many vitamins.
This Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry is a game-changer as a weeknight dinner, and is created by a nutritionist.
Did you know that each pouch in our Protein By Nature Range is not only 20g of protein per pouch, but also contains all 9 amino acids? You can purchase yours here.
Legumes & Beans
Members of the legumes and bean family include peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, peanuts, cooked kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans & edamame.
All are excellent sources of plant-based proteins, but not necessarily a good source of essential amino acids. Since they are not complete proteins—containing all the essential amino acids to help fight muscle loss—it is best to combine legumes with grains such as Quinoa as what Quinoa lacks, legumes contain and what legumes lack, you can get in Quinoa.
Looking for a new recipe? Give this Protein-Packed Cheesy Black Bean Bake a go!
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, walnuts, macadamia, cashews or Brazil nuts are the perfect snack for when you are super busy and on the run and want to pack in lots of plant-based protein. Seeds of all kinds, like pumpkin and sesame, are also great to mix in for a boost in essential amino acids. However, they alone will not provide all nine essential amino acids.
What To Eat To Be Healthy
Choosing foods that ensure you are consuming all nine essential amino acids can help to slow aging. keep your energy up, keep your overall health in check, prevent disease and even slow some of the physical effects of aging, too.
It’s best to ensure your diet is balanced, to make sure you enjoy what you eat as well as enabling you to fuel your body with the right nutrients.
To find a whole host of dried fruit, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses that can contribute to a healthy diet and give you some added protein, check out our online shop.
Disclaimer: The information included in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of the unique needs of everyone, please consult a doctor to determine the appropriateness of the information for your situation.