My nephew in sixth grade just began nutrition classes. Last week, his teacher gave the class a list of some essential nutrients the body needs to stay healthy. My nephew was particularly ‘stuck up’ on amino acids. What he knew about acids was that they were dangerous chemicals which can cause a lot of damage. He just couldn’t understand how acids could benefit the human body. What’s more? He didn’t understand what the word ‘amino’ means.
Well, I decided to allay his fears by teaching him all about amino acids last weekend. We had quite an interesting and interactive session together. I’ll share some of the things we talked about.
So, What Are Amino Acids?
My nephew and I kicked off the conversation by getting to know what amino acids are. First, I told him that amino acids are not the bad or dangerous kinds of acids. That is, they are not the type that could harm a human being. Instead, they are the types of acids that help to nourish our bodies and keep us healthy.
Simply put, amino acids are organic compounds that are made up of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Amino acids help to repair worn out body tissues. These elements are usually present in varying proportions. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein in the body. The term ‘amino acids’ is a shortened form of alpha amino carboxylic acids.
How Much Amino Acids Does my Body Need?
Good question! Seeing the plural marker there, you will definitely know that we are referring to more than one chemical compound. Specifically, there are about twenty amino acids which are essential for your development. I’ll list them out for you.
- Aspartic acid
- Glutaminic acid
It is also important to note that there are three basic categories of amino acids. I’ll tell you what they are:
Essential Amino Acids
These are amino acids that cannot be produced by the body. Basically, you have to draw these nutrients from your diet. These acids work in a funny way: If any of them is missing, the others cannot be used by the body. Weird, right?
Essential amino acids include threonine, valine, lysine, and leucine.
Non-essential Amino Acids
Naturally, these are the opposites of essential amino acids. The body can synthesize these acids; that is, you don’t need to extract them from your regular diet.
Examples of non-essential amino acids are glutamic acid, alanine, and asparagines.
Conditional Amino Acids
These are the amino acids that are needed when during an illness or when one is stressed out. Examples of these are arginine, cysteine, and glutamine.
The good thing is that all of these amino acids can be obtained in just a meal.
Where can Amino Acids be Gotten?
Typically, the most natural sources of amino acids are foods. In fact, almost a third of all the amino acids that needed for all round bodily development comes from the food. This emphasizes why you must be deliberate about what you consume; you need to be sure about what you are ingesting. My nephew, when I asked him if he knew amino acids sources, was quick to mention foods like steak, chicken, beef, and eggs as sources of amino acids. The young man totally left out the plant sources.
A number of people don’t know that there are plant-based sources of amino acids. Plants like seaweed, turnip greens, raisins, soy and sunflower seeds are rich in leucine. Leucine is an amino acid that helps to stimulate body muscle growth and regulate blood pressure. It also ensures the prevention and treatment of depression. How important!
Cashew, almonds, and oats are also great plant-based sources of amino acids; especially isoleucine. Isoleucine helps the body build up energy and also produce hemoglobin. It is a great nutrient for children. Other plant-based sources of amino acids include chickpeas, watercress, avocados, chia seeds, parsley, hemp seeds, and almonds. Amino acids can also be got from supplements.
In addition, here are a few foods that contain a high amount of amino acids. You might want to make them a part of your diet.
Lean meat is one of the meals that have a high protein content. Would you believe can get nearly 31 grams of protein from a 3-ounce serving of lean meat? Surprised? Eat lean meat to enjoy its benefits.
Poultry and Sea Food
If you choose to avoid lean meat, you can get the right quantity of amino acids from poultry and seafood. A 3-ounce serving of chicken breasts can provide about 28 grams of protein. The same seafood size should supply nearly 22 grams of protein. Isn’t that cool?
Eggs and Dairy
A regular consumption of eggs and dairy products can deliver essential amino acids. For instance, a cup of yogurt provides about 14 grams of protein. As already mentioned, proteins are absorbed into the body in the form of amino acids.
Health Benefits of Amino Acids
Something for the Athletes
Athletes can combat fatigue by consuming meals that are high in amino acids. Amino acids help to improve athletic performance and stimulate muscle recovery after athletic activities.
The benefits of consuming such foods are also available for persons who are non-athletes but consistently consume meals filled with amino acids.
Dealing with Mood Swings
Now, this is interesting. If you are a person dealing with sporadic mood swings, you may just want to step up your amino acids intake level. Experts say that low amino acids level like tryptophan can lead to depression and mood swings.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that aids the secretion of serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical substance that acts as a neurotransmitter in the body. Particularly, it helps to regulate sleep, mood and other behaviors. It also improves the overall energy level and helps keeps one happy.
In order to get rid of excess calories, an increase in the intake of amino acids is the way forward. This is because amino acids are helpful in achieving weight loss and a healthy body mass. Essential amino acids help to stimulate fat loss and help the body’s metabolism in breaking down excess fat deposits.
For people who love to eat between meals, diets rich in amino acids should be consumed regularly. Studies have shown that eating meals rich in amino acids helps to suppress frequent cravings for food, and this can slow down weight gain.
Amino acids also improve your overall cognitive health and boost your immune system.
Any Side Effects?
While amino acids might seem just great, excessive consumption of foods rich in this nutrient could affect some persons negatively. Patients suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis may suffer lung failure resulting from excessive consumption of meals rich in amino acids. In addition, alcoholics may suffer liver damage resulting from the excessive consumption of amino acids supplements.
Amino acids like arginine can lower blood pressure levels. This is why it is advised that persons who already have low blood pressure levels should keep off acids supplements and meals rich in amino acids.
Now, you know that amino acids are not as bad as you think. My nephew was totally relieved after our conversation and promised to add a healthy amount of amino-acids rich foods to his everyday diet. I hope you do same.