Do you know how to get amino acids in food? Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. It’s critical to get enough of them through food, beverages, and supplements. In the case of essential amino acids (EAAs), we have to get them through food. The reason is the body doesn’t produce them. However, sometimes we can even boost our “non-essential” aminos through food/supplements. The body might not produce enough due to factors like health issues, bad diet, or even normal aging. At the end of the day, our bodies must have enough of all 20 amino acids in the human body including EAAs and NEAAs.
In recent decades protein supplements have been trending. This is especially true among athletes, weightlifters, and bodybuilders. Fun Fact: In 1952 Hi-Protein became the first modern protein powder launched to market. The irony is the “research” used to develop the product involved mixing soybean flour and Hershey’s chocolate drink mix. However, since then many protein/amino supplements have hit the market including powders, tablets, and even liquids. However, while these products can boost your amino acid intake they’re not the best source of nutrients. While amino supplements can provide health benefits they’re still made in factories. They’re never a substitute for real food.
What Exactly Are Amino Acids?
The human body contains 20 main amino acids. There are 2 rare ones but they’re usually not added to the count. That’s why you might hear different figures about the number of “essential” and “non-essential” amino acids in the human body.
These are the two main types of aminos. The body makes non-essential amino acids naturally. There are 11 of them. Sometimes the body doesn’t make enough of all of them. When that happens you can get more of the NEAAs from food and supplements. This includes sources like meat/fish, whole grains, fruits/veggies, and dairy.
You should watch out for signs that your body isn’t producing enough NCAAs. There are 11 of them and they’ll cause different symptoms. However, if something doesn’t seem right about your health it’s better to get it checked out. The cause could be minor or serious so it’s critical to be in the know.
Then there are “essential” amino acids. The name might be confusing. It’s not that we need these and don’t need the non-essential ones. Instead, we must get these aminos from food. Leucine is the main one and the human body requires about 40mg of amino per day.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) have been trending in recent years. These are three amino acids that include Leucine. Some people claim that these are the main go-to aminos. They seem to be important for functions like muscle building and workout recovery.
That said, it’s critical to get enough of all 9 EAAs. So while BCAAs are important they just make up one-third of all the EAAs the body needs.
There are many important health benefits EAAs provide. They include ones related to a person’s physical, mental, and emotional being. Athletes/weightlifters often take EAA supplements to improve performance like building muscle and increasing stamina.
How to Get Amino Acids in Daily Diet
EAAs and NEAAs are both important. Your body must have all 20 aminos. That can be through body-production, dietary supplements, and real food. What’s important is to get enough of all amino acids you need including EAAs/NEAAs. That can make sure your body and brain are working effectively.
There are various non-food sources for getting amino acids. They include supplements like tablets, powders, and liquids. These can be an easy way to boost your amino intake and make sure you’re getting enough in your diet.
In the case of NEAAs, the body naturally makes these aminos. So while you can boost your levels through food/supplements usually you’ll get enough by maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, etc.
That said, the best source of EAAs is always real food. You should try to get aminos/protein from different whole foods. This will help to make sure you’re getting enough of all EAAs in your everyday diet.
There are two main kinds of proteins in terms of the aminos they contain. These are “complete” and “incomplete” proteins. Income proteins don’t have the full amount of all the 9 EAAs you need daily. They might even have all 9 EAAs but not enough for your daily needs. You can make combos like peanut butter/whole wheat bread, beans/rice, and hummus, whole wheat naan.
Then there are “complete” proteins. Most of them are animal-sourced although there are also some plant-based ones. These food sources provide all the EAAs you need during the day. Some examples include:
These are easy foods to add to your daily diet. Besides the aminos you can get from them they’re also high in other nutrients. They include healthy fats, fiber, vitamins/minerals, etc. It’s important to eat a wide range of these foods. That will help to maximize the nutrients you get from them.
Top Incomplete Protein Combos
Sometimes you can combine 2+ incomplete proteins to make a complete protein. Here are some options:
1. 2+ Beans
If you want to turn an incomplete protein into a complete one, then combine two different beans. One of the best options is a 3-bean salad. There are different options like kidney beans, green beans, and chickpeas. This option is even better than combining a pair of beans since you get extra nutrients from an extra bean.
2. Pasta and Peas
Make sure to go with whole grain flour for extra nutrients like protein. Peas are a good pairing with the pasta since they’re light and won’t overpower the pasta’s flavor/texture. While beans are usually highlighted as high-protein food we can’t forget that peas provide a similar benefit.
3. Peanut Butter/Whole Wheat Bread
This is a classic food that CAN be healthy. Make sure to go with whole wheat bread over white bread. You should also watch out for peanut butter with sugar. That can cause various issues like blood sugar spikes and a higher risk of prediabetes/diabetes.
Whole grain bread is always a better option versus refined grains. That’s because it includes all three layers of the grain, which provides more protein, fiber, and vitamins/minerals. Fun Fact: Ezekiel Bread contains 4 grains and 2 sprouted beans.
4. Hummus/Whole Wheat Naan
Hummus is a popular Middle Eastern dip that’s made with chickpeas, sesame oil, and lemon juice. It’s not low-carb but you can swap in options like cauliflower rice for the chickpeas. It provides a similar flavor/texture.
Meanwhile, naan is a popular flatbread in regions like the Middle East and South Asia. The whole wheat version is the best option to combine with other items for a complete protein. This is one of the best methods if you want to learn how to get amino acids.