Amino acids are well-known for its support for muscle growth. But have you heard about its connection to heart health?
A published study from the University of East Anglia suggests eating high levels of certain amino acids can result in having a lower level blood pressure and less arterial stiffness.
Arterial stiffness is the term used to describe the elasticity of arteries. Hardening or stiffening of the arteries can lead to arteriosclerosis which is associated with the increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
In other words, the study suggests that the approach is good for the heart and cardiovascular health. It is even good as quitting smoking or exercising. Not that an individual should continue smoking or stop exercising. They are simply spreading a newly discovered way that is as beneficial as adopting other lifestyle habits that lower the risk of heart disease. For instance, reducing salt intake, smoke quitting, and taking part in physical activity.
Researchers studied the data from TwinsUK, the biggest UK adult twin registry.
The participants who consumed the highest amount of amino acids had significantly lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness. Interestingly, they even found out the certain protein food source that can improve blood pressure and arterial stiffness.
The participants who eat plant-based sources had significantly lower blood pressure while participants who eat animal sources had lower levels of arterial stiffness.
Meaning to say, the research also suggests that including a combination of animal and plant protein foods into the diet has benefits. This is very positive as these foods are not just delicious but also provide a whole wealth of nutrients and phytochemicals.
What are amino acids?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Meaning, it is the organic compound that combines to form proteins. They are found in meat and plant-based proteins and is significant for repairing and healing wounds, especially muscles, skin, bones, and hair. Furthermore, they help remove waste products connected with metabolism.
There are three categories of amino acids: essential, nonessential, and conditional.
Nonessential and conditional amino acids are not mentioned in the research to have any relationship in having a healthy heart. But just for your learning, here is a brief knowledge.
Nonessential amino acids are synthesized by the body. Meaning to say, they cannot be acquired through eating some foods. The nonessential amino acids are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid.
On the other hand, conditional amino acids are considered not essential except when you get ill and have extreme stress. Belongs to this group are arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine.
The essential amino acids are referred to by the professionals as EAAs. They are the amino acids that are acquired through eating as they cannot be made by the body. The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
You can have EAA by consuming foods with proteins.
Sources of Amino Acids
You can find animal protein from eating dairy products such as yogurt, milk, meat, cheese, seafood, and eggs. Many plant foods also contain protein but the difference is the level of protein that you can get from specific plants. Vegetarians combine different plant foods to make sure that they can get the complete protein the body is needed.
Actually, there are plant-based protein foods that are considered complete protein (the term used to describe a food that is complete of the 9 essential amino acids). These plant-based foods are soy, quinoa, and buckwheat. Other plant-based foods that consist of proteins are legumes, nuts, and seeds. However, these are incomplete proteins.
If you need any ideas, you may try these suggestions to get more plant proteins into your menu.
- Have at least one night per weak of a vegetarian meal.
- You may substitute half the meat in your bolognaise with lentils and kidney beans.
- Have a whole grain toast and put a can of baked beans on top it. Add some wilted spinach and mushrooms for extra plant nutrition. Serve it for breakfast.
- If you are serving steak of fish fillet, you can make a side dish by adding a can of borlotti beans to sautéed greens.
- Use Quorn in making a bolognese. Mince it and use as a substitute for meat. Quorn is a vegetable protein meat substitute that you can find in the freezer section of the supermarket.
- Replace meat or seafood with a stir fry, marinated tofu.
- Try to substitute mashed potato with mashed chickpeas. Simply mash a can of chickpeas with a little extra virgin olive oil, garlic, plenty of black pepper, and a pinch of salt.
- Use cannellini beans, garbanzo beans, and chickpeas in making a three bean salad. Add diced red onion, tomato, and flat leaf parsley. Then add a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing with cracked pepper.
Amino Acids and Heart Health
Now that we know the correlation between amino acids and heart health, let’s talk about one of the amino acids and specific heart benefits.
Arginine is a natural amino acid. If you missed in which category it belongs, it is one of the conditional amino acids.
Arginine is promoted for heart health mainly because it needs to synthesize nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a very potent substance that causes dilation of blood vessels. In one recent study, arginine supplementation prevented vascular dysfunction associated with the consumption of a high-fat meal. The dose was 6 grams per day for 10 days.
A recent review of arginine studies concluded that the main benefit of arginine supplementation is to improve the clinical symptoms of various diseases associated with vascular dysfunction as well as to restore vascular function itself.