Protein Part 1: Understanding Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They are obtained from the food we eat and are made in the body. There are two classification of amino acids: essential and nonessential.

Essential Amino Acids

They are not produced in the body and must be obtained from food

Non-Essential Amino Acids

Our body can manufacture these amino acids – even if we don’t get them from our diet.

Without the proper essential amino acids in our bodies we can lose the ability to synthesize proteins and other nitrogen containing compounds. Our bodies can produce non-essential amino acids from fats, carbohydrates and other amino acids in a process called transamination.


How do I know if I’m getting all the amino acids? 

Setting out to eat foods that contain specific amino acids would be a headache and frankly take way too much time. A much easier way to ensure you are eating all the essential amino acids is to eat a wide variety of protein sources. The problem occurs when you get into a food rut and are eating the same foods over and over again. Eating a variety of legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit will give you the full spectrum of essential amino acids.

These amino acids are what differentiate different protein structures. This means certain foods can be higher in certain amino acids and lower in others. Some foods contain all of the essential amino acids. When a food contains all the essential amino acids it is called a complete protein. Part two in the protein series talks about the difference between complete and incomplete proteins.

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