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Health | Ten Essential Amino Acids

Author C. Sanders. Published on May 31, 2011 - 10:01 pm (1218 views — 1056 words)

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and also muscle tissue. And they also play a major part in physiological processes relating to our energy, recovery, mood, brain function, muscle and strength gains, and also in our quest for fat loss.

There are 23 amino acids and 9 of these are classed as essential or indispensable amino acids (IAA) that must be obtained from our nutritional intake. The others are termed dispensable amino acids (DAA) or non-essential due to the body being able to synthesise them from other amino acids.

Amino acids are simply organic compounds that contain an amino group, and a carboxl group. An amino group is a functional group that is found in all amines and amino acids. The amino group (-NH2) is made up of one atom of nitrogen that is attached by covalent bonds, and two atoms of hydrogen, leaving a lone valence electron hanging on the nitrogen which is ready to bond to another atom. A carboxyl group is commonly written as -C(=O)OH or -COOH.

The human body can synthesize all of the amino acids that are required to build proteins, except for ten, which are called the essential amino acids.

In order to maintain proper health and nutrition, and keep your vital organs in good condition, your diet must contain these essential amino acids. Generally, they are supplied by meat and dairy products, but if those items are not in your diet, you must find a way to still receive an adequate supply.

Other items that the essential amino acids can be found in are cereal grains (corn, wheat, rice, etc.) and legumes (peanuts, beans, etc.)

A few popular ethnic foods involve a good combination, so that in one dish, you might hope to get the ten essential amino acids:

* Mexican Corn and Beans
* Japanese Rice and Soybeans
* Cajun Red Beans and Rice

The University of Arizona's Biology Project summarizes amino acids in the following statement:

"The 10 amino acids that we can produce are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine. Tyrosine is produced from phenylalanine, so if the diet is deficient in phenylalanine, tyrosine will be required as well. The essential amino acids (that we cannot produce internally) are arginine (required for the young, but not for adults), histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. These amino acids are required in the diet. Plants, of course, must be able to make all the amino acids. Humans, on the other hand, do not have all the the enzymes required for the biosynthesis of all of the amino acids."

Failure to obtain enough of even 1 of the 10 essential amino acids has very serious health consequences and can result in degredation of the body's proteins.

For example- muscle and other protein structures may be broken down and "eaten" basically by the body in order to obtain the one amino acid that is needed.

"Unlike fat and starch, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use. The amino acids must be in the food every day." (Biology Project)

Amino Acids + Pieces to the Puzzle

Alanine - The second simplest amino acid, but used the most in proteins.

beta-Alanine - The only naturally occurring beta amino acid.

Arginine - Amino acid often used at the active sites of enzymes.

Asparagine - Amide derivative of aspartic acid.

Aspartic Acid - Important intermediate in the citric acid cycle.

Carnitine - Unusual amino acid that carries fatty acids into mitochondria.

Citrulline - An amino acid that works to detoxify and eliminate unwanted ammonia.

Cysteine - Thiol containing amino acid involved in active sites and protein tertiary structure determination.

Cystine - Oxidation product of cysteine that holds proteins together.

gamma-Aminobutyric Acid - Decarboxylated amino acid that helps you chill out.

Glutamic Acid - Negatively charged amino acid found on the surface of proteins.

Glutamine - The only amino acid with the ability to easily cross the barrier between blood and brain tissue.

Glutathione - Small peptide that helps dump free radicals.

Glycine - Simplest amino acid that also acts as a neurotransmitter antagonist.

Histidine - Amino acid responsible for histamine biosynthesis.

Hydroxyproline - Important amino acid used in structural proteins like collagen.

Isoleucine - Hydrophobic amino acid used almost exclusively in protein and enzyme construction.

Leucine - Another hydrophobic amino acid used almost exclusively in protein and enzyme construction.

Lysine - An essential amino acid with a positive charge on the aliphatic side chain.

Methionine - An essential amino acid that helps initiate protein synthesis.

Ornithine - Critical member of the amino acids in the urea cycle.

Phenylalanine - Most common aromatic amino acid found in proteins.

Proline - Cyclic aliphatic amino acid used in the synthesis of collagen.

Serine - Amino acid alcohol found in the active site of serine proteases.

Taurine - Mercaptan-containing amino acid that is involved in bile acid biochemistry.

Threonine - Amino acid alcohol involved in porphyrin metabolism.

Tryptophan - Aromatic amino acid used the least frequently in proteins.

Tyrosine - Hydroxyphenyl amino acid that is used to build neurotransmitters and hormones.

Valine - Hydrophobic aliphatic amino acid used to hold proteins together.

More ways to consume Amino Acids
Eating protein foods (lean meats and non-fat dairy), or consuming protein drinks are the most common ways that we get our amino acids these days. We also obtain them from vegetables, and legums as mentioned above.

How Cooking Affects Amino Acids
Cooking can affect the amino acids; some are more sensitive to heat than others, so cooking will cause decomposition of them, and at that point, they are worthless. The physical nature of the particular food is also a factor, whether it is solid, liquid, powder, or even tablet, and to what extent it is chemically pre-digested as some amino acid supplements are, fillers and binders also can have an affect on the digestion of the amino acid. The condition of our digestive system also has an affect on amino acid digestion. Genetics, age, health, specific diseases and illnesses, etc.

If you want to read a very educational and informative artical on how heat affects enzymes and amino acids, read The Health Benefits of Raw Milk - Legalities, Safety, Vitamins, Amino Acids, Enzymes and Overall Nutrition