All bodies need amino acids to perform at their peak. Your body is producing many of the necessary amino acids every day. However, nine amino acids cannot be made and therefore must be obtained through diet. Meat is often considered the easiest source of these protein building blocks. For those who don’t eat meat, paying attention to sources of the nine essential amino acids is critical for peak body performance.
This essential amino acid helps build hormones and enzymes that are critical to feeling balanced and energized. It also provides necessary building blocks for collagen and elastin allowing your skin and joints to feel young and vibrant. Lysine rich foods include leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale as well as grains like quinoa and buckwheat.
Leucine and Isoleucine
Without enough of these essential amino acids, vegetarians and vegans are likely to suffer from poor muscle function and decreased energy. Both are needed to build strong and healthy red blood cells and muscles. Luckily, finding quality sources of leucine and isoleucine is easy. Quinoa and soy are full of these amino acids while lentils and beans contain smaller amounts as well.
This tricky amino acid requires some coaxing to become available from plant foods. Like many other essential amino acids, it helps with muscle growth and energy production. Look to cooked mushrooms, roasted or fermented soybean products such as natto and tempeh, and whole grains like kamut and teff to provide your daily requirement.
Important for your immune and nervous system, histidine is found in many plants. Cauliflower, mushrooms, quinoa and citrus fruits all contain histidine. However, bread and other wheat products have the highest concentrations of histidine.
Just a few plant-based sources of methionine exist. These include oats, brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds. You don’t need to worry about trying to consume a lot of these however since too much methionine can be detrimental to your health.
If you have healthy, young-looking skin, you most likely are consuming enough threonine. This essential amino acid, along with lysine, helps build elastin and collagen in your skin. It is found in many of the same foods as the other essential amino acids including soy, nuts, and beans. Chia and flax seeds also contain a healthy serving of threonine.
Phenylalanine gets a bit more attention than the other amino acids due to phenylketonuria (PKU,) a genetic disorder that results in reduced metabolism of this amino acid. It is found in legumes and nuts. Adding walnuts or lentils to your diet will give you an adequate supply of this essential nutrient.
Often discussed around thanksgiving, tryptophan gets a bad rap as the amino acid that puts you to sleep. It isn’t only responsible for sleep and those who follow a plant-based diet will find this key mood regulator in seeds, nuts, and black beans.
As you can see, plant-based diets do not have to be lacking in essential amino acids. Plant powerhouses like quinoa and buckwheat contain all nine. Striving to eat a variety of foods will make sure you get all essential amino acids in your diet.