Essential amino acids are amino acids that are not synthesized by the body and must be obtained from food and other sources of nutrition such as supplements. While there is some difference of opinion on how many of unsynthesized amino acids actually exist, the number is generally identified as eight. All eight of these indispensable amino acids can be obtained from consuming a balanced diet.
The eight essential amino acids agreed upon by most experts are lysine, methionine, leucine, tryptophan, valine, phenylalanine, threonine and isoleucine. One of the best sources for obtaining all these amino acids is food with a high protein content. Fortunately, protein can be obtained from meats, poultry, vegetables and dairy products with relative ease. Fish is also a good source of several of the essential amino acids.
It is important to note that food can also be a good source of the nonessential amino acids as well. While the body does synthesize amino acids classified as nonessential, various health issues can make it necessary to supplement these acids from time to time. As with essential amino acids, there are also nutritional supplements that can provide many of these acids if the body’s natural processes and the daily diet do not provide an acceptable amount.
Fortunately, the essential amino acids are often found in foods that are common to most diets. Eggs, milk, and cheese are part of many different prepared dishes and contain a number of the most important amino acids. Pork and beef are excellent sources of amino acid rich proteins, as well as various types of fresh water and salt-water fish. Buckwheat is an example of a grain that can also help supply essential amino acids. For people who choose to limit the consumption of meat and dairy products, soy beans is a viable means of obtaining these essential acids through diet.
Many recipes for ethnic dishes contain ingredients that will provide an ample supply of essential amino acids. Three bean salads are loaded with amino acids. A Mexican meal consisting of tacos, refried beans with cheese, and rice provide ample amounts of these acids. The Cajun favorite of red beans and rice also is a simple and delicious way to obtain part of the essential amino acids required as part of a balanced diet.
When diet restrictions make it necessary to avoid certain foods that are high in essential amino acids, nutritional supplements are an excellent alternative. Supplements of this type can easily be obtained at most health food stores.