Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins, containing nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen as a base structure, each with a unique R group/side chain.  While there are 20 amino acids our bodies need for healthy function, only nine are considered to be essential, and these can only be obtained through diet.

The nine essential amino acids are:

  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Methionine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Lysine
  • Histidine

When a food contains all nine of these, it is considered a complete protein.

While animal products often meet this criteria, obtaining all of the essential amino acids through a plant-based diet is also possible.  Quinoa, soy, buckwheat, hemp, and chia seeds are some common examples of complete plant-based proteins.  Additionally, you may eat combinations of incomplete proteins which together meet the criteria. To ensure a complete diet, it is generally recommended to eat a variety of plant proteins every day.

A diet rich with complete proteins may help improve mood and sleep, boost exercise and physical activity performance, reduce muscle loss, and promote healthy weight loss.

Tryptophan, known for its role in serotonin production, supports relaxation, positive mood, and mental clarity.  Diminished serotonin levels have been linked to depression and sleep disorders; studies are being done showing tryptophan supplementation may help reduce symptoms associated with these conditions.

Kubala, J. (2018, Jun 12). Essential Amino Acids: Definition, Benefits and Food Sources. Healthline.