Did you know that protein makes up about 15.1% of the average human body weight? It’s true. Protein is pretty much everywhere on and inside you, from your skin and hair to your nerves and muscles, and for good reason. Protein is required for your body to repair cells and create new ones. On top of that, protein is essential for healthy growth and development in children and teenagers. With so much work to do, it is no wonder that proteins are such an important part of a healthy and balanced diet
Proteins are made up of structural units known as amino acids, which are attached to one another in large chains. These chains of amino acids form the building blocks that your body uses to make the many different proteins such as collagen, keratin, and digestive enzymes.
Needless to say, amino acids are an integral part of nearly every process of the human body. Let’s take a closer look at what these crucial compounds do and the impact they have on your health.
Types Of Amino Acids
There are 20 amino acids that are considered crucial to the survival and optimal functioning of the human body. They are divided into 2 categories based on whether or not they occur naturally in the body: essential and non-essential. Let’s take a look at both.
Essential Amino Acids
Essential amino acids are those that your body is incapable of producing; thus, they are an essential part of a well-balanced diet. They must be obtained from dietary sources like meat, eggs, and dairy products. In total, there are 9 essential amino acids:
Non-essential Amino Acids
On the other hand, non-essential amino acids are those that your body is capable of manufacturing for itself. While the body can make its own, it also helps to have a diet with adequate amino acids to help supplement what your body is already making and using up.
There are 11 non-essential amino acids:
- Aspartic Acid
- Glutamic Acid
Health Benefits of Amino Acids
Amino acids are the building blocks that your body uses to make whatever proteins it needs. These include structural proteins like keratin, collagen, and myosin that are used for the physical support of different organs and tissues.
The amino acids can also be used to make functional proteins like enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters required to facilitate different reactions and processes in your body.
Ensuring your body is getting an abundance of different amino acids either through diet or supplementation will result in the optimal formation of proteins. This will ultimately lead to a variety of different health benefits. Here are just a few you may see.
- Improved tissue repair. Amino acids like arginine and glutamine stand out as the most important in the process of repairing tissues. They mainly promote cellular regeneration and the formation of structural proteins like collagen and elastin.
- Increased muscle strength. Muscles account for the biggest reservoir of proteins in our bodies. Amino acids are involved in forming these proteins and are therefore very useful when it comes to promoting muscle function. Whether you are working out to build mass or tone up, amino acids will have a lot to offer through their effects on your muscles.
- Reducing muscle soreness and damage. Speaking of muscles and working out, amino acids have also been shown to be useful in promoting the healing of muscles after exercise-related strain. They do this by simply replacing the damaged muscle cells with new, strong, structural proteins. Branched-chain amino acids in particular are credited with their usefulness in promoting recovery of sore and damaged muscles.
- Healthy and glowing skin, hair, and nails. Your skin contains structural proteins like keratin, collagen, and elastin, and your hair and nails are primarily made out of keratin. By consuming adequate amounts of amino acids, you will notice the change in all these structures including firm and youthful skin as well as non-brittle hair and nails.
- Optimally functioning digestive system. Proteins like amylase, lipase, pepsin are all proteins that are important for digestive function. They help break down the food you eat, absorb nutrients, and even promote peristalsis.
- Improved cognitive functionality. There are numerous amino acids with nootropic effects which means that they are capable of improving your cognitive functionality. You may notice improvements in things like your concentration capabilities and memory.
Sources of Amino Acids
In order to reap the many health benefits of amino acids, it’s crucial to make sure you are consuming adequate amounts of protein. However, not all protein sources are created equal as far as amino acid content is concerned. Here are a few of the best sources of amino acids to add to your diet.
- Meat, especially turkey and fish
- Eggs, milk, and other dairy products
- Plant-based proteins like nuts, legumes, and sunflower seeds
- Mushrooms, especially shiitake and oyster mushrooms
- Superfoods like hemp seeds, chia seeds, and organic Wild Microalgae®
- Amino acid supplements
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