Essential Amino Acids Debunked

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks of  of protein molecules. They help build protein and also aid in metabolism. The body manufactures proteins from 20 amino acids, 8 of which are essential and cannot be made from the body.  The essential acids and their functions are listed below:

Isoleucine– Helps to regulate and stabilize blood sugar and levels of energy. Also helps in the repair and healing of muscle tissue, skin, and bones. If you are deficient you may experience dizziness, depression, confusion, and symptoms resembling hypoglycemia.

Leucine-Helps to promote the healing of muscle tissue, bones, and skin when used with isoleucine and valine. Leucine is used sometimes for those recovering from surgery. Leucine helps to lower blood sugar. Deficiency in leucine may include dizziness, irritation, headache, fatigue, etc.

Lysine-helps with calcium absorption and keeps a proper nitrogen balance in adults. Helps to form antibodies that can fight cold sores and also can lower triglyceride levels in the body. Deficiency in lysine include low energy, hair loss, anemia, retarded growth, weight loss, and reproductive system complications.

Methionine– A powerful anti-oxidant and cab help prevent disorders of the hair, skin, and nails because of its source of sulfur. This amino acid helps in the breakdown of fats in the liver and arteries and is a good detoxifying agent against lead and metal in the body.

Phenylalanine– is used to promote alertness and vitality; this amino acid can raise mood, decrease paid and help in memory and learning. This amino acid is also used to treat arthritis, depression, menstrual cramps, migraines, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia. Deficiencies in phenylalanine may include depression, chronic pain and Parkinson’s disease. Other signs of deficiency include fatigue, lethargy, liver complications and slow growth.

Threonine-helps with the proper protein balance in the body and the formation of tooth enamel, elastin, and formation of collagen. It can prevent the buildup of fat in the liver and helps with metabolism.

Tryptophan-helps alleviate insomnia and reduce anxiety and depression. Can help with migraine headaches and helps the immune system function properly. Can help in controlling weight by reducing appetite.

Valine-is important for muscle metabolism and coordination, tissue repair and for the maintenance of proper nitrogen balance in the body; Muscle tissue uses this as an energy source. Can calm emotions and help in the treatment of liver and gallbladder disease.

Foods Sources of Amino Acids

We do not have all the enzymes necessary to fashion all of the amino acids in our bodies, therefore, we have to get the fulfillment through diet. The typical American diet is rich in protein and amino acids and sources from animal sources usually have the highest amount. Chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products, beef, and pork are the top contenders. Those who have a vegetarian diet may find it more difficult to get all the amino acids through food but it is not impossible. Dried beans such as kidney beans, black beans, and white beans can provide the amino acids necessary. A vegetarian diet rich in soy, peas, nuts, seeds, whole grains, rice, and legumes should be adequate.

Best sources of food and for which essential amino acid listed below:

Isoleucine-cashews, almonds, garbanzo beans, lentils, eggs, fish, liver, rye, soy protein, and most seeds

Leucine-cottage cheese, sesame seeds, peanuts, dry lentils, chicken, and fish

Lysine– cheese, potatoes, fish, eggs, milk, lima beans, soy products, yeast, most proteins

Methionine– onions, yogurt, soybeans, meat, fish, eggs, liver, dairy, garlic, lentils, and seeds

Phenylalanine-sesame seeds, tahini, cheese, almonds, peanuts, soybeans, proteins

Threonine– bread, beef, soy, wheat, brown rice, liver, peanuts

Tryptophan-brown rice, soy protein, peanuts, meat, cottage cheese

Valine-mushrooms, soy protein, peanuts, meat, grains, dairy

Disclaimer: As always it is best to consult with your doctor before taking any supplements, self-diagnosing and change in diet.


Insel, Paul; Turner, R.; and Ross, Don (2001). Nutrition. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Whitney, Eleanor N., and Rolfes, Sharon R. (2002). Understanding Nutrition, 9th edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Group.

Reference Guide for Amino Acids


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