Many people know that you can get all 22 amino acids from protein foods such as meats (beef, chicken, pork, lamb, etc.), fish, and even eggs, but some people do not know how many plant-based amino acids in food there are, let alone which ones for which kinds of foods; we will cover some of them here in chart form for easy use.
Below is a breakdown of some of the essential amino acids that are in a variety of vegetarian (non-meat, non-dairy, non-egg, and non-fish) or vegan sources of foods… these are plant-based amino acids. The term “essential” amino acid means that you can only get these kinds of amino acids in food since your body cannot make them on its own.
Amino acids in food from plant proteins
According to the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) an adult needs about 0.8 to 1.0 g protein/kg of body weight. You can calculate this by dividing your weight (in lbs) by 2.2. That is how many grams you need each day of protein.
When you eat protein foods, the proteins break down to their basic units called amino acids. Amino acids in food then help build back proteins within the body, needed by muscles, organs, and the immune system. About 15-25% of your daily calories should be from protein foods.
Uses of amino acids in food
Arginine is considered as a semi-essential, or “conditional” essential amino acid depending on the health status and what stage of development the individual is in. Histidine is most important during infancy, although essential for both adults and babies.
Isoleucine is used for muscle production, as well as maintenance and recovery. This is especially important after you have worked out/exercised. It helps in hemoglobin (in red blood cells) formation, blood clotting, energy, and regulating blood sugar levels.
Leucine is used in tissue production, repair, and production. Lysine is used for calcium absorption, nitrogen maintenance, bone development, and hormone production, among other functions. Methionine is used as a “cleaner” of the body. It helps emulsify fats, aids in digestion, is an antioxidant, prevents arterial plaque, and removes heavy metals.
Phenylalanine is a precursor for the amino acid tyrosine and signaling molecules such as dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), as well as the skin pigment melanin. It helps with memory and learning, elevates moods, and aids in brain processes.
Threonine monitors proteins in the body that processes to maintain and recycle. Tryptophan is utilized for the production of niacin, serotonin, plus helps in mood regulation, and supports sleep. Valine is for the muscles in recovery, endurance, and energy, plus it balances levels of nitrogen.
Amino Acid Chart of Food Sources
|AMINO ACIDS –>||Arginine||Histidine||Isoleucine||Leucine||Lysine||Methionine||Phenylalanine||Threonine||Tryptophan||Valine|
There are certain other amino acids in food that could, or even should, be added to this amino acid chart, but this is a good start for most common vegetables, nuts, legumes, and other plant foods.