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Blog Nutrition Foods With Amino Acids: 9 Healthy Options That Every Healthy Eater Should Know About

Foods With Amino Acids: 9 Healthy Options That Every Healthy Eater Should Know About

foods with amino acids

What exactly are amino acids, and why should you care? Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which are essential for maintaining and repairing cells. They can be found in a variety of foods, but some have more than others.

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Foods that contain amino acids can help restore energy levels, promote muscle growth, and repair tissues. They also play an important role in maintaining muscle mass, which is essential for staying healthy as you age (2). 

In this blog post, we will discuss several foods with all essential amino acids that you should know about. 

What Are The Essential Amino Acids?

There are nine essential amino acids, and they include:

Histidine

This facilitates growth, the creation of blood cells, and tissue repair. It also helps maintain the special protective covering over nerve cells, which is called the myelin sheath. Moreover, it is responsible for the production of red blood cells and immune system function. It also helps with muscle growth (11). 

Tryptophan

This is an essential amino acid that helps with sleep, provides relief from depression and anxiety, boosts moods, and stabilizes blood sugar levels. It also protects against Parkinson’s disease (24).

foods with high amino acids
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Isoleucine

This essential amino acid, along with other B complex vitamins, plays an important role in energy metabolism as well as brain functioning and mood regulation (12). 

Threonine

Threonine is necessary for healthy skin and teeth, as it is a component in tooth enamel, collagen, and elastin. It helps aid fat metabolism and can be beneficial for people with indigestion, anxiety, and mild depression (24).

Read More: Essential Amino Acids Foods: Get The Lowdown On Must-Eat Foods That Contain All 9 EAAs

Leucine

Another one of the nine essential amino acids that are used to help maintain lean body mass during dieting or weight loss regime; it helps regulate insulin levels too (14)! 

Lysine

Plays a pivotal role in helping to form major parts of our bodies such as bones, skin tissue, and hormone production pathways. Also, not forgetting its ability to promote bone formation and prevent osteoporosis (a condition that leads to brittle bones and an increased risk of fracture) (16). 

Methionine

Methionine and the nonessential amino acid cysteine play a role in the health and flexibility of skin and hair. It also helps keep nails strong, aids in the proper absorption of selenium and zinc, and the removal of heavy metals, such as lead and mercury (17).

Phenylalanine 

It is important for the development of neurotransmitters in the brain. It’s also a precursor to dopamine, which helps regulate sleep cycles and moods (20). 

Valine

This amino acid is used by muscle tissue to form new protein chains after they have been broken down during exercise or other strenuous activities such as weightlifting sessions. It helps with fatigue too (25)!

vegan foods with all essential amino acids
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What Are The Foods With 9 Essential Amino Acids?

Because many foods are rich in amino acids, it’s generally easy to meet your daily requirement. However, the recommended daily intake is different for each amino acid.

Most foods from animal protein sources will provide all the essential amino acids you need, and many plant-based protein foods can be excellent sources of amino acids as well.

Below are some of the foods with amino acids:

Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the most nutritious grains available today. In addition to being a good source of fiber, it is considered a complete protein since it contains all nine essential amino acids that your body needs because it can’t make them on its own… It also has a higher amount of lysine than wheat or rice, making it a better source of these amino acids than other grains (22).

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foods with amino acids for muscle growth
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Soy

If you have been wondering which vegan foods have all the essential amino acids? Soy is the answer. It is a vegetarian-friendly protein source that can be added to any diet. Soy contains all of the essential amino acids and even offers some lysine, something most vegetarians struggle to get from their diet (23).

It also includes other important nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and manganese (23). Soybeans are one type of soy food that you’ll want to incorporate into your diet because they contain more fiber than tofu or tempeh does.

Nuts And Seeds

Some of the best sources of essential amino acids are nuts and seeds. They’re a great snack or even meal idea because they contain all nine essential amino acids you need to consume every day (19).

Nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews, are also high in monounsaturated fat, which has shown benefits in improving your cholesterol levels and lowering your risk of heart disease (19).

Seeds, like pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, are also good sources of amino acids, along with other nutrients that provide a healthy diet like zinc, iron, and vitamin E (19).

foods with all essential amino acids
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Legumes

Legumes are rich in protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Black beans especially boast a high amount of all three amino acids, lysine, isoleucine, and tryptophan, that your body needs from food (13).

Also, if you’re vegan, it’s important to note that there may not always be enough soybeans present on a vegan diet, so these types should work well alongside some plant sources.

Read More: Ketogenic Amino Acids: Stay On Top Of Your Keto Game!

Fish

In general, fish is an excellent source of protein. It also contains all three amino acids, lysine, tryptophan, and methionine, that your body needs from food (10). However, it can be quite difficult to find a complete serving of nine essential amino acids in one piece of fish due to how each type has different amounts. Tilapia and shrimp are good sources for getting all three though (just make sure they’re cooked) since their proteins become easier to digest when heated up.

Some types of shellfish like oysters or clams may have more than enough if you consume them carefully during the day rather than as just one meal.

eggs
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Eggs

Eggs are a great source of protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. The yolk contains the most, but the white is also an excellent choice for getting your daily requirement of these nutrients (9).

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is a good source of protein, but it also contains all nine essential amino acids. One cup of cottage cheese provides about 33 grams of calcium and potassium, in addition to the other nutrients that help build muscle and maintain healthy bones (6).

If you’re looking for ways to add more protein into your diet without adding too many calories, eating cottage cheese is an excellent option. It has fewer carbs than most cheeses, so it can be eaten as part of a low-carb or ketogenic lifestyle with ease.

On the other hand, some people avoid dairy products because they are lactose intolerant, which makes them unable to consume milk products like cottage cheese.

foods with essential amino acids
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Poultry

Some types of poultry like turkey and chicken are excellent foods with amino acids for muscle growth. Chicken is the best source, but some people prefer to eat a type that they find tastier or more filling when dieting (like beef) (1). 

It’s important to note that not every piece of meat will retain the same amount of  all nine essential amino acids. The protein content also varies based on how it was cooked (1).

You should also be aware that the way meat is cooked will have a significant effect on its amino acid content.   

Some people avoid red meat because they are worried about the saturated fat content, which can lead to health issues like heart disease. However, in moderation, most people can avoid the harmful side effects of fatty meat (1).

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Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a unique food that offers nutrients like potassium, selenium, and zinc. They also contain all nine essential amino acids you need from foods (18). On the other hand, mushrooms are still considered like an incomplete protein, because even if they contain some of each essential amino acid, it is in very small amounts which isn’t enough to be considered as a protein source.

While they’re not the most popular item on restaurant menus, mushrooms make an excellent addition to your diet because they can be either cooked or eaten raw in salads for added benefits. In fact, some cultures eat them right out of the dirt!

Amino Acids And Exercise

Amino acids help the body build protein, which is vital in building and growing new muscle. Of the nine essential amino acids, three are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), and these are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

“Branched-chain” refers to the chemical structure of BCAAs found in protein-rich foods such as eggs, meat, and dairy products. They are also a popular dietary supplement sold primarily in powder form. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are popular supplements among athletes and those looking to build muscle. 

BCAAs have five main benefits for exercise:

foods with amino acids
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Increase Muscle Growth

BCAAs can stimulate muscle protein synthesis, so they are necessary for the maintenance and growth of muscles. This also increases with exercise because of increased activity levels (3).

Decrease Muscle Soreness

BCAAs can increase muscle growth and repair, which decreases soreness (3). 

They also decrease exercise-induced oxidative stress by reducing post-workout inflammation in muscles. The result is a speedy recovery after strenuous workouts or training sessions (3).

Some studies suggest that BCAA supplementation before intense resistance exercise may reduce the amount of delayed onset muscle soreness experienced afterward (7).

Wrestlers who took BCAAs six times each day for seven days had significantly less soreness than those who did not take them on any occasion during their wrestling camp period (8).

Reduce Exercise Fatigue

BCAAs may decrease muscle fatigue during intense exercise by reducing lactic acid build-up and oxygen depletion (5).

It shows that BCAA supplementation before, during, or after endurance training can reduce the amount of time it takes for an individual to reach exhaustion when compared with those who did not receive any form of BCAAs (7).

The result is a person’s ability to train longer because they have more energy without feeling tired quickly. 

This could positively impact performance in competitions where one reaches their limits much quicker than another competitor due to increased fatigue levels such as wrestling or running races.

Increase Muscle Protein Synthesis 

Amino acids and exercise are important for the body to build protein, which is necessary to maintain and grow muscle; BCAA can increase this with supplementation because they stimulate muscle protein synthesis (3). 

BCAAs can reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress, which is a result of exercise. This decrease in oxidative stress reduces post-workout inflammation and results in quicker recovery time after strenuous workouts or training sessions (7).

Some studies suggest that BCAA supplementation before intense resistance exercise may reduce the amount of delayed onset muscle soreness afterward (7). This means that if you are not taking any amino acid supplements during your workout session, then adding them after to help you recover from it faster than if you had taken nothing at all. 

Build Lean Body Mass 

The increase in lean mass helps you burn more calories naturally throughout the day so that your weight loss efforts will go a little further

If you have difficulty losing fat despite following a healthy diet, adding BCAA supplements could help give you the boost needed to lose more pounds over time!

Weight Loss According To The Age

The Bottom Line

By now, you should be convinced that amino acids are tremendous for the function and growth of muscles. You also learned about some easy ways to incorporate more foods with essential amino acids into your diet. If you routinely follow these simple tips, it will not take long before your body is functioning better than ever!

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. A comparison of the Essential Amino Acid Content and the Retention Rate by Chicken Part according to different Cooking Methods (2017, nih.gov)
  2. Amino acids: metabolism, functions, and nutrition (2009, nih.gov)
  3. Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality? (2017, nih.gov)
  4. Branched-chain amino acids in health and disease: metabolism, alterations in blood plasma, and as supplements (2018, nih.gov)
  5. Central fatigue: the serotonin hypothesis and beyond (2006, pubmed.gov)
  6. Cheese (n.d., harvard.edu)
  7. Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances (2013, nih.gov)
  8. Effect of Branched-Chain Amino Acid Supplementation on Recovery Following Acute Eccentric Exercise (2018, nih.gov)
  9. Eggs (n.d., harvard.edu)
  10. Fish: Friend or Foe (n.d., harvard.edu)
  11. Histidine (2021, nih.gov)
  12. I-Isoleucine (2021, nih.gov)
  13. Legumes and Pulse (n.d., harvard.edu)
  14. Leucine (2021, nih.gov)
  15. L- Threonine (2021, nih.gov)
  16. Medicinal Uses of L-Lysine: Past and Future (2011, pharmascope.org)
  17. Methionine (2021, nih.gov)
  18. Mushrooms (n.d., harvard.edu)
  19. Nuts for the Heart (n.d., harvard.edu)
  20. Phenylalanine (2021, nih.gov)
  21. Protein and Amino Acids (1989, nih.gov)
  22. Quinoa (n.d., harvard.edu)
  23. Straight Talk About Soy (n.d., harvard.edu)
  24. Tryptophan (2021, nih.gov)
  25. Valine (2021, nih.gov)
ZindzyGracia
ZindzyGracia

Zindzy is a freelance writer who specializes in creating web content in the health & wellness niche. The articles she writes focus on providing factual information – but never at the expense of providing an entertaining read.
Her interest in health & wellness was sparked by her motherhood journey. She realized just how much damage misinformation could cause, especially when it is targeted at new moms who are keen on postpartum weight loss.
So for years, she has worked hard to demystify the seemingly complex concepts of health & wellness. Eventually, she made one startling discovery that she wishes to share with all – there is no short cut. Consistency and hard work are the keys to a healthy mind and body.
But, writing is not all she does. Being a mother to an energetic toddler means her free time is spent exploring the outdoors, arms laden with cotton candy and toys. Through the daily intrigues of work and play, she continues to discover and share more ways to keep fit and stay healthy!

S. Ziou
S. Ziou

Hi everyone! I am a Canadian Registered Dietitian (RD) who graduated from the University of Ottawa, Canada. I worked at the Montreal Pediatric University Hospital and the Ottawa Heart Institute before joining the International Clinic of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. With a strong interest in community nutrition, I worked in Haiti and in Syrian refugee camps affected by the scourge of malnutrition. I am passionate about food and its science!

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