There is no denying that protein plays an essential role in both our development as well as continued growth. However, not all forms of protein are the same.
The USDA suggests that we consume 2-3 servings of protein-rich foods.
Just like they also suggest balancing out those meals with 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruit, etc., there are further divisions within these groups.
There is a simple reason why foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish meat, and turkey meat all come in different colors, sizes, and shapes. It’s because there are particular vitamins and minerals in that piece of food that cause it to have that hue, weight, and height. Therefore, some foods have higher sources of essential vitamins and minerals that others do not. The key to a healthy lifestyle is through a variety of foods.
The same rings true in the world of protein.
PROTEIN: The Building Block of Life
20% of the human body consists of protein. Within these sources of proteins are the building blocks of all life known as amino acids. In all reality, protein is essentially just a chain of amino acids.
When we consume protein, enzymes within our stomach and the small intestines break down the links that create this protein chain. The small intestines continues this process until the amino acids within the protein block are in a simpler chemical state that can be transmitted through the intestinal walls and out into the bloodstream.
These building blocks of life play a pivotal role in major biological functions within our bodies. These responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- Repairing tissue damage
- Healing wounds
- Functioning of arteries, glands, organ, and tendons
- Composing cell structure
- Post-workout muscle healing
- Digesting of food
- Waste removal
There are 20 amino acids that fit into one of three categories.
Nonessential Amino Acids
Just because they’re called nonessential, that does not mean they do not serve important roles in our body. We just don’t need to consume these amino acids through our diets. The reason for this is that our bodies create protein. This type of protein is known as endogenous protein and contains an assortment of 11 amino acids:
- Aspartic Acid
- Glutamic Acid
Conditional Amino Acids
8 of 11 nonessential amino acids are further categorized as conditional amino acids. These are amino acids that our body produces on its own. However, in times that our bodies are in duress such as illness and stress, these amino acids will need to be consumed. Our body at times will not create enough. Conditional amino acids include:
Essential Amino Acids
These are the amino acids that we need to consume through diet. There are 9 essential amino acids and in order to live your healthiest life, you need to be sure to have a balanced diet full of these amino acids.
The 9 Essential Amino Acids
Maintenance of healthy tissues depend on this essential amino acid. One of its primary responsibilities is to maintain the myelin sheaths within the nerve cells that act as a barrier who ensures the brain’s messages are reaching the rest of the body.
One of the other primary functions of histadine is to regulate sexual functions. When arousal is pending, histidine converts to histamine, boosting the excitement. When taken alongside vitamin B3 and vitamin B5, histadine can further enhance sexual pleasure.
Many foods contain histadine. However, those richest with this amino acid include:
- Sirloin Steak
- Yellow Beans
This amino acid plays a role in many important functions throughout the body. It’s in charge of keeping the body in balance including blood sugar levels by breaking down glucose. Isolecuine acts as a transporter of oxygen from the lungs throughout various areas of the body. It also aids in the production of hemoglobin. This is the part of a blood cell where iron lives.
You can consume isoleucine-rich foods such as:
- Soy beans
Leucine’s important function in the system is to increase the amount of muscle protein within the body. During a workout, our body begins to deplete muscles by robbing them of amino acids. Luecine produces sterols, which resembles fats (or energy). This slows down the muscle depletion process, enhancing stamina and performance, allowing you to push through your workout.
Foods rich in leucine include:
- Pumpkin Seeds
- White Beans
The amino acid of the beauty conscious. Lysine is essential for the production of hormones and enzymes that facilitate collagen production. Collagen is a substance that plays a key role in the formation of bone, muscle, cartilage, and skin. Lysine-rich foods will help prevent wrinkles and bags under your eyes.
Lysine also reduces the amount of calcium excreted out of the body through the passage of urine. It is essential in assisting the body in growing bones, hair, nails, and teeth. This makes lysine-rich foods effective in fighting osteoporosis.
Foods that contain a large quantity of lysine include:
- Chia Seeds
- Chicken Breast
What is so important about methionine is its role in the production of other amino acids such as cysteine, and vitamins and minerals such as lecithin and carnitine.
Methionine is very rich in sulfur, making this amino acid a strong antioxidant. It also aids in the metabolization of cells. This amino acid can also be used to repair the liver and bulk up the immune system.
Foods that contain a good amount of methionine include:
- Black Beans
- Split Peas
In what may be one of the most essential of the essential amino acids, phenylalanine combats symptoms of depression. Phenylalanine-rich foods help fight off sluggishness, mood swings, and anxiety. It is the building block to the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinphrine, and epinephrine that bring feelings of happiness to people.
- Pinto Beans
- Watermelon Seeds
Bones and cartilage get their formation from this essential amino acid. It is also in charge of the development and growth of muscles in the liver, skeleton, and small intestines.
Foods that are rich with this amino acid include:
- Cranberry Beans
This is the most well-known essential amino acid thanks to the old Thanksgiving tale that tryptophan in turkey makes people sleepy. That is a true tale.
Tyrptophan facilitates the production of two important neurotransmitters for a restful night’s sleep. It is the precursor to serotonin, which has a calming effect on the brain, and melatonin, which regulates sleep.
To get your fair-share of tryptophan, try eating foods such as:
- Cottage Cheese
- Dark Chocolate
Valine works in tandem with a lot of other amino acids. One of its roles main roles is to help break down nonessential amino acids such as alanine and glutamine within the muscles. When we workout, we burn through our carbs. As we push through, our body begins to borrow amino acids from our muscles. Studies have found that alanine and glutamine combine in the gut, they transport to the liver, and convert to glucose. That in turn, gives your body energy and leaves muscles intact. Valine acts as a catalyst for this process.
Foods rich in valine:
- Cottage cheese
- Egg Whites
- Sesame Seeds