Building Blocks of Proteins

What exactly are Essential Amino Acids?  Essential amino acids are known as the building blocks of proteins and are compounds that play constructional roles in the body. Though amino acids are most recognized for their role in muscle development and repair, the body depends on them for so much more. This article will provide you with info defining essential amino acids, what they do for our bodies and the foods that supply them.





These organic compounds are made of nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon.  For growth purposes, our bodies need 20 different amino acids to maintain good health and normal functioning.  Though all 20 are important for your health, only nine amino acids are classified as essential.  They’re involved in important processes such as tissue growth, energy production, immune function and nutrient absorption.  Some may also prevent muscle loss and improve mood, sleep, athletic performance and weight loss.

What Do Essential

Amino Acids Do?

Here's a Deeper Dive

The nine essential amino acids perform a number of important roles in your body.  Though amino acids are most recognized for muscle development and repair, the body depends on them for much more.

  1. Phenylalanine – The antecedent for various neurotransmitters.
  2. Valine – Valine’s main role is to cause the growth and regeneration of muscles. It can also increase the endurance ability due to the energy burst that it causes.
  3. Threonine – This amino acid plays a major part of the structural proteins such as elastin and collagen. It also helps in fat metabolism and improves the immune function of the body.
  4. Tryptophan – This one may be familiar as it is linked to the feeling of drowsiness. However, it has major functions in the body such as helping to regulate our appetite, sleep and mood.
  5. Methionine – Methionine plays an integral role in our metabolism. It facilitates detoxification in the body, causes the growth of tissues and facilitates the absorption of minerals such as selenium and zinc.
  6. Leucine – Leucine is responsible for the synthesis of proteins in the body and the repairing of muscles. It also facilitates the regulation of blood sugar levels, the healing of wounds and the production of hormones.
  7. Isoleucine – This amino acid encourages metabolism of the muscles and is highly concentrated in the muscle tissue.
  8. Lysine – Lysine facilitates processes in the synthesis of proteins, hormone production and enzyme production. It is involved in the absorption of calcium, production of energy, production of collagen, and immune function.
  9. Histidine – This amino acid is necessary for the production of histamine. Histamine is a neurotransmitter which is critical for immune response, sexual function, digestion and sleep cycle.

Foods Rich

in Certain Amino’s

A Few Examples

Since your body cannot produce essential amino acids, they must be provided through your diet.  Fortunately, many foods are rich in essential amino acids, making it easy to meet your daily needs.  A few examples are listed below along with the US recommended daily allowances.

  • Phenylalanine (33 mg) is in dairy, meat, poultry, soy, fish, beans, and nuts
  • Valine (24 mg) is in soy, cheese, peanuts, mushrooms, whole grains, and vegetables
  • Cottage cheese and wheat germ contain high quantities of threonine (20 mg)
  • Methionine (19 mg) is in eggs, grains, nuts, and seeds
  • Dairy, soy, beans, and legumes are sources of leucine (42 mg)
  • Isoleucine (14 mg) is plentiful in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, lentils, nuts, and seeds
  • Lysine (38 mg) is in meat, eggs, soy, black beans, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds
  • Meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, and whole grains contain large amounts of histidine (14 mg)

Animal proteins are considered “complete proteins” because they contain all of the essential amino acids.  Examples include beef, pork, turkey, chicken, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, and seafood.  If you’re following a plant-based diet, you can ensure proper intake of all essential amino acids as long as you eat a variety of plant proteins each day.  Soy, quinoa and buckwheat are plant-based foods that contain all nine essential amino acids, making them complete protein sources.



There are nine essential amino acids, which you must get through your diet.  They’re vital for functions such as protein synthesis, tissue repair, and nutrient absorption.  Some may also prevent muscle loss and improve mood, sleep, athletic performance, and weight loss.  Fortunately, these vital compounds are found in many animal and plant-based foods, helping you meet your daily needs through a HEALTHY AND BALANCE DIET.

Health & Wellness