Amino Acids

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and play a central role in our metabolism. We can produce 10 of the 20 amino acids, but the rest must come from the foods we eat. Proteins control nearly all our cellular functions, so without adequate amino acids, our bodies would quickly spiral into ill health. The lack of even one essential amino acid can have significant health impacts. And, unlike other components of our bodies, like fat and starch, we don't store amino acids for later use, and so we need to be sure to include them in our diet every day.

The 10 amino acids that we can produce are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine. These are known as non-essential amino acids. The other 10 are known as essential amino acids. Two of the essential amino acids, lysine and tryptophan, are hard to find from plant sources, and so strict vegetarians need to be careful to include sources of these amino acids in their diets or take supplements.

How do Amino Acids work?

Proteins make up the largest part of our body weight, next to water, and are found in every part of our body—our muscles, our organs, our hair and fingernails. The proteins that build our body aren't directly supplied by the food we eat; instead, when we eat protein-rich foods, the proteins in our food are broken down into amino acids. The body uses these amino acids to re-build the proteins our bodies need for good health. It's vital to our wellbeing, then, that we eat a variety of protein-rich food in order to supply our body with all the amino acids it requires to make the proteins we need.

Enzymes and hormones that regulate our bodily functions are also proteins. And, amino acids are used in almost all our body's processes from regulating how our body works to how our brain functions. Amino acids activate and utilize vitamins and many other nutrients.

How do I make the most out of Amino Acids?

Our liver produces about 80 percent of the amino acids we need to make protein, but the other 20 percent must be provided through our diet. The 10 essential amino acids—which we must supply to our body every day—can be found in rice, wheat, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy, beef, fish, eggs, pork, poultry, dairy, potatoes, mushrooms, and avocadoes.

If you cannot include enough of these foods into your diet, for example, if you're a strict vegetarian, you might consider an amino acid dietary supplement.



Vitamin A
B-Complex Vitamins
Vitamin B 6
Vitamin B 12
Vitamin B 17
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Pantothenic Acid


Minerals: An Overview


Amino Acids