Essential Amino Acids: What You Need to Know

Amino acids, often referred to as the building blocks of proteins, are compounds that play many critical roles in your body. When a person eats a food that contains protein, their digestive system breaks the protein down into amino acids. The human body uses amino acids to make proteins to help the body break down food, grow, repair body tissue and perform many other body functions.

Amino acids can build muscles, cause chemical reactions in the body, transport nutrients, prevent illness, and carry out other functions. They can also be used as a source of energy by the body. Amino acid deficiency can result in digestive problems, depression, decreased immunity, lower mental alertness, slowed growth in children, and many other health issues. They are categorised into three groups: Essential amino acids, Nonessential amino acids and Conditional amino acids .

Nonessential means that our bodies produce an amino acid, even if we do not get it from the food we eat. Conditional amino acids are usually not essential, except in times of illness and stress.

This article tells you everything you need to know about essential amino acids, including how they function and possible food sources.


What Are The Nine Essential Amino Acids?


The body needs 20 different amino acids to maintain good health. Nine of these amino acids, called the essential amino acids must be obtained through food. A healthy body can manufacture the other 11 amino acids, so these do not usually need to enter the body through the diet.

The nine essential amino acids can’t be produced by your body and must be obtained through your diet. Each of the essential amino acids plays a different role in the body. They’re involved in important processes such as energy production, immune function, nutrient absorption and tissue growth. These are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.


What Are The Role Of The Essential Amino Acids?


The nine essential amino acids perform a number of important and varied jobs in your body:


  1. Phenylalanine: Phenylalanine plays an integral role in the structure and function of proteins and enzymes and the production of other amino acids.
  2. Threonine: Threonine is a principal part of structural proteins such as collagen and elastin, which are important components of the skin and connective tissue. It also plays a role in fat metabolism and immune function.
  3. Tryptophan: Tryptophan is needed to maintain proper nitrogen balance, and is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates your appetite, sleep and mood.
  4. Valine: Valine is one of three branched-chain amino acids, meaning it has a chain branching off to one side of its molecular structure. Valine helps stimulate muscle growth and regeneration and is involved in energy production.
  5. Methionine: Methionine plays an essential role in metabolism and detoxification. It’s also necessary for tissue growth and the absorption of zinc and selenium, minerals that are critical to your health.
  6. Isoleucine: Isoleucine is involved in muscle metabolism and is heavily concentrated in muscle tissue. It’s also important for immune function, hemoglobin production and energy regulation.
  7. Leucine: Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that is critical for protein synthesis and muscle repair. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, stimulates wound healing and produces growth hormones.
  8. Lysine: Lysine plays major roles in protein synthesis, hormone and enzyme production and the absorption of calcium. It’s also important for energy production, immune function.
  9. Histidine: Histidine is used 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

As you can see, essential amino acids are at the core of many vital processes. Though amino acids are most recognised for their role in muscle development and repair, the body depends on them for so much more. Essential amino acid deficiencies can therefore have negative impact on your entire body including your reproductive, nervous, immune and digestive systems.


Food Sources Of Essential Amino Acids


Since your body cannot produce essential amino acids, they must be provided through your diet. Our diets must contain all of the essential Amino Acids and essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3, 6 and 9) for us to be able to maintain our health. Fortunately, many foods are rich in essential amino acids, making it easy to meet your daily needs. 

The best sources of essential amino acids are animal proteins such as meat, eggs and poultry. For those that eat a meat based diet with little attention paid to other sources of protein, it is important that they eat a range of types of meat as no single meat source has all the protein that we require. However, Moringa is one of the few sources of 18 Amino Acids, including all the 9 essential Amino Acids. Moringa is truly a magnificent and versatile superfood to be a regular part of your diets.

Foods that contain all nine essential amino acids are referred to as complete proteins. Complete protein sources include Soy and Moringa Powder. Other plant-based sources of protein such as beans and nuts are considered incomplete, as they lack one or more of the essential amino acids. Plant based diets can provide all the protein that is required and a Complete Plant Protein such as Moringa provides all that is needed.

Whether you are on meat or plant-based diet, choosing a variety of incomplete proteins such as beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and vegetables, and adding Moringa to your diet can ensure that your essential amino acid needs are met.


Moringa And The 9 Essential Amino Acids


Moringa contains 18 amino acids in total and it contains all of the Essential Amino Acids that the body needs to consume for good health and cell structure.Most other plant-based protein is Amino Acid deficient and only contains 7 of the essential amino acids. Lysine and Tryptophan are only found in very small doses in most plants. Moringa Oleifera has them all!