Amino acids aren’t just some fitness buzzword, designed to drum up sales of protein shakes and other muscle-building formulas. They are, in fact, an essential group of compounds that your body needs to function healthily. So then, how do we get amino acids? And what makes them so essential? Let’s find out.

What are the essential amino acids?

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Consider amino acids as the building block of your body. They are used by your system to help you to stay healthy, develop properly, protect itself from disease, produce energy, and aid in absorbing other vital nutrients. In short, amino acids are part of what keeps you ticking.

In more scientific terms, they are organic chemical compounds composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon (in various structural forms) in addition to a side chain, which varies depending on which amino acid it is. They have a number of benefits, including:

Although 21 amino acids are utilized by your body’s processes, only nine of these are deemed as essential; meaning that they need to be eaten to be absorbed by the body. The others are naturally occurring.

The Famous Nine––why do we need amino acids, anyway?

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So, let’s get acquainted with these nine essential amino acids and find out just what do they do.

1. Histidine (RDA*:14 mg)

If you suffer from allergies, this one may be a little familiar to you. Histidine helps your system to create histamine, which is one of the key components in an allergic reaction. Histidine functions alongside the immune system and aids in digestion, and sleep cycles.

2. Isoleucine (RDA: 19 mg)

This one is closely tied to muscle building, metabolism, wound healing and stimulating the immune system. So it helps you repair after sport or an injury.

3. Leucine (RDA: 42 mg)

A regulator of blood sugar levels, a proponent of growth and repair, and a helper in healing nasty wounds. Leucine works to protect your body, and to help it knit itself back together again after stress or an injury.

4. Lysine (RDA:38 mg)

Focused on tissue repair and development, this essential amino acid plays a crucial part in protein synthesis in your body. Ensuring your body is able to grow and develop as it should.

5. Methionine (RDA: 19 mg)

One of the critical functions of this amino acid is improving your hair, skin, and nails. But aside from making you beautiful, it is crucial the development of your body and tissue repair.

6. Phenylalanine (RDA: 33 mg)

This essential amino acid forms the basis for your body’s neurotransmitters––tyrosine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Meaning it is essential in ensuring an appropriate emotional state.

7. Threonine (RDA: 20 mg)

Want to stay looking fresh and young? Say hello to threonine. This essential amino acid works to ensure your skin’s elasticity by promoting structural proteins and collagen levels.

8. Tryptophan (RDA: 5 mg)

Helping you regulate your serotonin (the wellness chemical) levels, tryptophan may also cause you to feel a little sleepy, due to its natural sedative effect.

9. Valine (RDA: 24 mg)

Like a Valkyrie, Valine is an amino acid that means business. This compound helps your body to grow muscle tone and is thought to be a stimulant.

RDA = Recommend Daily Allowance

How do we get the essential amino acids that we need?

health foodsNow that you know what they are, and the role they play in your body, of course, you want to ensure that you have the right amount of these amino acids in your system.

The primary sources for amino acids are classic proteins such as meat, dairy, and eggs. Each of these contains the complete range needed for you to stay healthy.

But, if you’re a vegan there’s no need to miss out, in fact, you need those wonder compounds too. Add a variety of seeds, nuts, grains, fruits, beans, and leafy greens to your diet, and you’ll be well on your way in succeeding your daily allowance.

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