zig
0

Notifications

  • You're all caught up!

Nutritional Sources of Essential Amino Acids

by
author image Jan Annigan
A writer since 1985, Jan Annigan is published in "Plant Physiology," "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," "Journal of Biological Chemistry" and on various websites. She holds a sports medicine and human performance certificate from the University of Washington, as well as a Bachelor of Science in animal sciences from Purdue University.
Nutritional Sources of Essential Amino Acids
Chicken in a bowl with brown rice and garbanzo beans. Photo Credit nata_vkusidey/iStock/Getty Images

Amino acids are small molecules that, when joined together in a long chain and folded into a globular structure, form a protein. Your body creates different proteins by putting together unique combinations and sequences of amino acids, which are provided by the dietary proteins you consume. Food proteins contain 20 different amino acids, and of these, nine cannot be synthesized by your body. Because they are therefore essential to your diet, these nine are known as essential amino acids. Including nutritional sources of essential amino acids in your daily diet is vital for optimal health.

Meat

Every protein that derives from an animal source contains the full complement of essential amino acids. Meat, whether from cows, pigs, sheep or poultry, is a rich source of high-quality protein providing all your essential amino acids. In addition, meat can provide other essential nutrients, such as iron, zinc, niacin and vitamin B-12, depending on the specific source. Some meats, however, contribute high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. You can avoid excessive consumption of these unhealthy fats by selecting lean cuts of meat to benefit from their essential amino acid content while minimizing the health risks of saturated fats.

Fish

Similarly to meat, fish contributes all the essential amino acids you require each day. Some types of fish are lean, while others, including salmon, tuna and mackerel, supply your diet with fat in addition to high-quality protein. Unlike the fat in meat, the fat in fish is primarily unsaturated, contributing to the health of your cardiovascular system. Consuming fish not only gives you essential amino acids but also improves your heart health.

Eggs and Milk Products

Both eggs and milk products, including fluid milk, whey supplements, yogurt and cheese, supply high-quality protein with the full range of essential amino acids. In addition to protein, eggs contribute a variety of vitamins and minerals to support good health, while dairy products are especially abundant in calcium and phosphorus, minerals that strengthen your teeth and bones. To minimize the fat content of eggs and milk products while benefitting from their amino acid content, you can select egg white products rather than whole eggs and consume reduced-fat dairy items instead of full-fat products.

Plants

The majority of plant proteins are incomplete because they lack at least one essential amino acid. As different plant sources are low in specific amino acids, you can combine complementary plant sources to create a nutritionally complete protein. For example, grains supply the essential amino acids missing in legumes, and legumes supply the essential amino acids missing in grains. Eating black beans on a corn tortilla, for instance, supplies your diet with all your essential amino acids.

LiveStrong Calorie Tracker
Lose Weight. Feel Great Change your life with MyPlate by LIVESTRONG.COM
GOAL
  • Gain 2 pounds per week
  • Gain 1.5 pounds per week
  • Gain 1 pound per week
  • Gain 0.5 pound per week
  • Maintain my current weight
  • Lose 0.5 pound per week
  • Lose 1 pound per week
  • Lose 1.5 pounds per week
  • Lose 2 pounds per week
GENDER
  • Female
  • Male
lbs.
ft. in.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

CURRENTLY TRENDING

Demand Media

Our Privacy Policy has been updated. Please take a moment and read it here.