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Amazing Things You Need to Know About Amino Acids

By Sasha de Beausset Aparicio, MSc

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Amino Acids
Amazing Things You Need to Know About Amino Acids

You may have heard the term amino acids before, and thought it was just another boring biology term or an acid that you can use in chemistry class. In reality, did you know that they’re the actual building blocks of life? And no, when we say this, we do not mean the building blocks from your old toy box from years past.

These building blocks throughout your body constantly form chains that make up proteins in your body. Protein is crucial to keeping you healthy and energized, so it’s pretty simple to draw the line between the importance of proteins, and the importance of amino acids.

And while you can clump all of these substances into an ‘amine’ group, there are actually many variations of these amino acids, that all serve different purposes and functions within the body – a whopping 20 of them for proteins, to be precise.

Some of these amino acids are glutamine, phenylalanine (you’ll hear more about these two later) tryptophan, and valine. Even though you may put them all in one group in your mind, there are actually three groupings of these amino acids; essential, conditional and non-essential.

Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids are essential for all human beings survival. Some of these essential amino acids include:

  • phenylalanine;
  • lithreonine;
  • liisoleucine;
  • limethionine;
  • lileucine;
  • lilyine;
  • lihistidine;

And why are these essential amino acids so essential? Its because your body doesn’t have a way to synthesize them, so it is up to you to include them in your diet in order to feed your body and brain.

Conditionally Essential Amino Acids

The next grouping is the conditionally essential amino acids, a few are:

  • glutamine;
  • arginine;
  • cysteine;
  • proline;

These are typically not needed every day in your diet, but when you’re under stress, your body cannot manufacture these amino acids and they must come from an outside source in your food.

Non-Essential Amino Acids

But here’s where it gets a little tricky – trying to discern the difference between essential and non-essential amino acids in the body. Two common non-essential amino acids are methionine and homocysteine, and while these two acids can convert into each other, the two cannot be created in the body, much like the essential amino acids. This conversion allows them to be considered non-essential and is also absorbed in food.

What Foods Do I Need To Eat

Now that you’re aware of the pivotal role that food plays in getting your needed dose of amino acids, the next logical question would be, “What foods do I need to be eating to build up these amino acids,” and this question will give you a wide range of options.

A variety of meats and red meats contain amino acids, but don’t worry if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, as there are great options for you. As far as vegetables that are high in amino acids, try:

  • turnips;
  • lettuce;
  • radishes;
  • onions;
  • cucumbers;
  • beets;
  • spinach;

If you prefer fruits to vegetables, then there are options for this too including:

  • apples;
  • pineapple;
  • pomegranates;
  • plums;
  • papaya;
  • grapes;
  • raspberries;

If you’re someone who likes adding elegant touches to food, meal garnishes like mint, ginger, and garlic contain chemicals that produce amino acids. Feel like you’re not getting enough of these amino acids from the foods you’re eating? You may be surprised to know that there currently brain supplements that will work with your body and provide you with much-needed amino acids.

Knowing what foods power all of the amino acid functions in your body are important, especially the ones located in your brain, which do some majorly important work in keeping you functioning smoothly.

Amino Acids That Work In Your Brain

Two of the most important amino acids that work in your brain are phenylalanine and glutamine that bring important things to the table in keeping your brain in perfect working order. Phenylalanine acts as an antidepressant in the brain and is a mixture of two breakdowns of the chemical. How does it provide natural anti-depressant effects? By blocking endorphin degradation in the brain, which is a chemical that makes you feel a rush of happiness, in situations like working out. The other amino acid, glutamine, easily converts to GABA for calming down your brain – which is always a plus for those busy, energy draining days. This amino acid is sometimes metabolized in the brain, and it keeps you going both mentally and physically. These two amino acids have truly been reported to make many people feel happier and healthier on a regular basis.

But don’t be fooled by supplements actually using synthetic GABA and not from naturally converted glutamine. This synthetic has been shown not to work long-term, including possessing highly addictive qualities, even a potential for dangerous side effects. When you spend your hard earned money on supplements to make yourself better, do yourself a favor and get natural amino acids to give you the boost you need with your amino acid intake, giving you the basic building blocks of life, for a better you.