Brief Thoughts on Protein and Amino Acids

There are 22 amino acids that are available for human consumption and nutritional needs (that are known). Eight specific amino acids are essential- that is the body cannot produce them itself from other materials . As these cannot be synthesized, we must for optimum heath consume these amino acids in food. (These essential acids are called: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, serine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.) The non-essential amino acids are still needed and are very necessary in the diet- the name is a little bit of a 'fib' in my opinion. The different between 'non essential' and 'essential' amino acids is simple- the body finds them all essential and needs them for optimal health, but the non-essential amino acids can be made by the body if it gets enough raw ingredients from food. Over the last few years there has been a new category tentatively added called 'conditionally essential'- amino acids that can be synthesized and are not normally required to be eaten, but must be supplied for certain populations whose bodies so not synthesize enough for the body's needs; conditionally essential amino acids are arginine, cysteine, glycine, glutamine, histidine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. All of these amino acids can be found in protein... which is why we need to have some protein in our diets. Protein also is the only food that provides nitrogen which we need as well.

When you don't consume enough of the essential amino acids over an adequate period of time and/or do not consume enough of the rough materials to make the 'non-essential' ones... then illness can result. Some very common symptoms of these deficiencies can include fatigue, allergies, loss of memory, and even heart disease. Some diseases, such as phenylketonuria, require the sufferer to avoid one particular amino acid which makes other amino acids more essential for consumption (As it removes some of the extra building blocks that the body would use to synthesize the necessary amino acid.) And, like any good thing, too much of certain amino acids can cause toxicity and illness: methionine, cysteine, and histadine. Also, imbalances can be caused when too much of certain amino acids are consumed and then complete for the same transporters as other amino acids. This can help make too much of one amino acid available... while not allowing enough of one particular one to be available. It seems that the best way to make sure that you are getting the amino acids are to eat whole proteins in vegetables, beans, meat and fish- other products such as protein shakes may not provide the amino acids needed even if they do provide adequate protein.

There are several vegetables that are high in protein and as I do not really like meat, I think I should fill my diet with more of them. I do eat a lot of beans and legumes and it appears that some of my favorite vegetables are protein rich as well. I also use hemp seed protein in drinks which has omegas and other stuff in it. I think that a great way to have a lot of protein is to eat a lot of green leafy vegetables and beets and add some meat every few days- preferably fish. (At least that is my preference!) And if the vegetables are raw or steamed they would have less fat as well.

So, do you get enough amino acids? And if you are getting enough protein... are you getting too much fat? Are you getting enough variety? Let's discuss! :)

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