Our bodies use amino acids to break down food, to grow, and to repair tissue, among many other critical functions.
Scientists have classified amino acids into three groups:
Don’t let the terminology fool you:
We need them all. But those classified as essential cannot be produced by the body, so we have to get them through the nutrients we take in. (“Conditional” amino acids are so called because our bodies can synthesize them, except in times of illness or stress.)
Here’s how it works:
We take in protein through our diets. Our bodies break it down into amino acids, and then use the amino acids to build the specific proteins we need. So we should all be sure that we’re getting the essential amino acids through a balanced diet.
The nine considered essential are:
Soy products, meat, poultry, fish, seafood, milk, and eggs contain the nine essential amino acids. In addition, most plant foods have some of the nine, so eating a broad selection of vegetables and legumes every day, plus a small portion of protein, will ensure that you get the amino acids your body requires.