Essential Amino Acids: How to Get Them

Essential Amino Acids – our body cannot produce them. Deficiency can cause chronic diseases so we must supplement them daily. Just how do we go about getting our essential amino acids in? Yes, they are found in food, meal supplements and vitamin pills. But to figure out the best sources for the most effective supplementation,  some research is needed. Let’s take a look.

Majority of essential amino acids are found in meat, dairy products, dried beans, peas, soy, seeds, legumes, nuts, whole grains, even rice. To get all 20 essential amino acids, we need to eat a variety of foods from many sources.  Different foods have different amino acid profiles. Some have non–essential amino acids and an occasional essential amino acid. Some have only one or two essential amino acids. Others have quite a few  essential amino acids but not all. So to get all essential amino acids in, we need to consider  essential amino acids food profiles and pick those that best serve our needs. Let’s look at some examples.

Amino Acid % Daily Requirement of Essential Amino Acid per 1 cup portion
Tofu Lentils Corn Baked   Potato Brown Rice Oatmeal Strawberries Broccoli
Isoleucine 83 59 16 9.5 14 40 0.2 13
Leucine 62 43 20 13 13 33 0.2 7.3
Lysine 43 48 8.7 9.9 6.5 20 0.2 8.7
Methionine 26 29 12 9.1 12 42 0.1 6.7
Phenylalanine 90 59 20 15 18 48 2.5 10
Threonine 66 45 16 11 12 31 0.2 11
Tryptophan 66 45 11 11 17 53 3.4 14
Valine 66 53 19 14 16 44 1.6 13
Histidine 58 53 15 7.5 12 31 0.2 8.3

As we can see, food with high protein content such as meat and tofu, have significantly higher percent of essential amino acids that lentils, grains, vegetables and especially fruits. While it is relatively easy to meet our daily essential amino acid requirements by eating small amounts of meat and moderate amounts of lentils, it becomes challenging when relaying only on fruits and vegetables to do the same. Meat, tofu, lentils and even whole grains make a much better choice. But caution is advised. It pays to consider what else comes with essential amino acids. Is it fat? Or cholesterol? Or vitamins and minerals? How many calories come with it? Would eating something else be a better choice? A little shopping around can be fun and informative.

Limiting our sources to certain food, such as meat or grains, may meet our daily requirements, but it may rob us of vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy digestion, lead to excessive fat and cholesterol intake and result in weight gain correlated with chronic diseases.

To avoid endangering our health, the best way to meet our daily essential amino acids requirements is to eat food from variety of  sources and get some health promoting minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates and dietary fats as well.

For more tips on essential amino acid rich meal ideas refer to Herbal Diet excellent choice of products.

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