Do you ever wonder if there are missing amino acids on a vegan diet?
Doing a specialized diet can be extra challenging since it is possible that you can be missing some amino acids and other important nutrients. Diets such as high-protein, low-carb, or vegan diet need to include foods that were chosen carefully to make sure the body gets the nutrients it needs.
Amino acids and other important nutrients shouldn’t be missing in our daily macro consumption since they are used to fuel specific areas of the body. However, individuals who do the vegan diet are said to be lacking some of these. How and what are those? We’ll let’s find that out!
Numerically speaking, there are 21 kinds of amino acid that our body needs. Wherein 12 of them are being produced by the body naturally while the remaining 9 are the so-called ‘essential’ amino acids that we have to get from the foods that we consume. The challenge comes in since majority of the food sources that contain essential amino acids come from poultry.
Why are amino acids important?
Amino acids serve as the building blocks of protein. Since protein is known to help promote muscle growth and increase in energy, amino acids are said to have the same effects too. Aside from that, amino acids also help in the various processes of the cells in the body.
Regardless of the age, amino acids are pretty much beneficial for an individual’s health. Studies claim that lack of amino acids or protein deficiency could lead to negative health issues most especially for growing children.
The nine essential amino acids that our body is requiring are histidine, lysine, leucine, isoleucine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine, and tryptophan.
One of the essential amino acids that our body shouldn’t lack is lysine. Experts claim that lysine deficiency could cause some negative effects on the health such as nausea, anemia, and reproductive disorders. Apart from that, lack in lysine could also stress out the muscles leading to fatigue, decrease in muscle growth, and retardation.
If we try to think of it, foods that are complete protein are not only healthy but experts even suggest that at least 30% of our caloric intake should be derived from complete protein foods. However, the complete protein foods aren’t that conducive for individuals who go on a vegan diet.
Amino Acid Sources
Even though limited to complete protein foods, there are still ways vegans can have access to amino acids. As mentioned above, a more convenient way of consuming the complete kinds of amino acids are by including animal-based protein sources – yes, that is true. But nowadays, we already debunked the belief that vegans cannot complete the required amino acids since their options are very limited to what they can only eat.
There are now plant-based foods that also contain a rich amount of essential amino acids. What’s exciting about it is that these foods also contain a decent quantity of protein. A vegan who knows how to do a well-rounded diet who includes plant-based sources of protein could still have the essential amino acid he/she needs.
Where to get Amino Acids?
In order for a vegan to get the required amino acids, he/she needs to choose the plant-based foods which are also considered complete protein sources. Below are the following essential amino acids with a list of plant-based sources that a vegan may consider:
- Leucine – Good sources of Leucine include pumpkin, seaweed, peas, sesame seeds, watercress, kidney beans, turnip greens, and legumes.
- Isoleucine – This amino acid can be derived from soy, cashew, rye, lentils, beans, cabbage, hemp seeds, spinach, chia seeds, and pumpkin.
- Methionine – Plant-based sources for vegans include hemp seeds, chia seeds, oats, seaweed, legumes, onions, raisins, cacao, wheat, figs, and Brazil nuts.
- Phenylalanine – Foods with a rich amount of this amino acid are seaweed, spirulina, beans, pumpkin, peanuts, quinoa, raisins, leafy greens, olives, figs, and berries.
- Threonine – Excellent sources of threonine include leafy greens, watercress, hemp seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, figs, avocados, raisins, sunflower butter, soybeans, almonds, and wheat.
- Tryptophan – Protein sources that are vegan-friendly include leafy greens, beans, lentils, peas, quinoa, beats, asparagus, soybeans, pumpkin, parsley, spinach, carrots, chia seeds, peppers, winter squash, and even fruits.
- Lysine – This amino acid could be found from spirulina, hemp seeds, parsley, avocados, lentils, legumes, chickpeas, watercress, and beans.
- Histidine – Excellent plant-based sources of histidine are legumes, cantaloupe, wheat, rye, chia seeds, seaweed, buckwheat, cauliflower, and corn.
- Valine – Foods that have a high content of Valine are spinach, broccoli, soy, peanuts, blueberries, figs, cranberries, oranges, avocados, and apricots.
How much amino acids do we need?
The amount of protein that we need to consume in a day would depend on our lifestyle and our body weight goals. However, for vegans, it is advisable for them to use a calculator so they can carefully keep track of the amount of protein they are consuming.
As highlighted above, doing a well-rounded diet by including plant-based foods that are rich in protein could provide a vegan all the essential amino acids that he/she needs.
If we actually think of it, almost all the vegan-friendly foods that are good sources of protein contain not just one type of amino acid. Meaning, by mixing and matching them in every meal could already provide one the complete essential amino acids.
Some of the plant-based protein sources that a vegan can include in a diet are good as ingredients. Having said, one can easily make his/her own version of protein snacks to make sure no one will be missing the needed amino acids. Fitness enthusiasts even claim that combining protein sources could be the best way for a vegan to get adequate essential amino acids.
Doing a vegan diet? Totally up to you. As long as you’re taking advantage of the available resources then you won’t be missing the essential amino acids.