Essential Amino Acids


There are 9 essential amino acids which we must get from our diets because our bodies do not produce them. There are also 11 non-essential amino acids that the body produces on its own.

First, here are the 9 essential amino acids and the functions they perform in the body:

  • Histidine (carnosine prescursor, repairs tissues, metabolism)
  • Isoleucine (muscle growth, maintenance and recovery, energy production)
  • Leucine (muscle growth and maintenance, regulates blood sugar, heals injuries)
  • Lysine (precursor for carnitine, reduces cholesterol, uses fat for energy, formation of collagen/cartilage, helps the body absorb calcium, heals cold sores)
  • Methionine (breaks down fats, prevents clogged arteries, balances hormones)
  • Phenylalanine (supports alertness, mild appetite suppressant)
  • Threonine (liver function, formation of collagen, immune system function, balances mood and hormones)
  • Tryptophan (promotes sound sleep, relaxant, balances mood)
  • Valine (muscle growth and maintenance, cognitive function, circulation)
Meat is known to be the best source and is considered a “complete” protein because by itself, meat provides all 9 amino acids in abundant quantities. Clearly it is much easier to get these amino acids from meat. BUT just because a certain food isn’t a “complete” protein doesn’t mean it doesn’t provide one or more of the amino acids your body needs. From what I have read, it is still very possible to get all 9 AA’s through a vegetarian diet, as long as you are getting the proper combination of foods.
Through food combining, you can get adequate amounts of the 9 essential amino acids you need. Here are some good vegetarian sources of each of these 9 essential amino acids:

Histidine – seeds, soy, tofu, peanut flour, seaweed, kidney beans, buckwheat, cabbage, corn, cauliflower, mushrooms, potatoes, bamboo shoots, bananas, cantaloupe, French bread, Chinese yams

Isoleucine- watercress, soy, tofu, seaweed, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, kidney beans, alfalfa, spinach (raw/canned), sunflower seeds, lentils, black beans, cashews

Leucine- soybeans, lentils, seaweed, turnip greens, pumpkin leaves, watercress, kidney beans, sesame flour, sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seed

Lysine- soy, watercress, seaweed, parsley, lentils, chickpeas, navy beans, amaranth, beets, mangoes, apricots, apples, dried pears, applesauce, figs, avocados, tomatoes, tomato paste, pineapples, baked potatoes, celery, persimmon fruit, peaches, guava, watermelon, sweet potatoes, corn, Chinese cabbage, oats, bananas, leeks, endive, okra, broccoli, strawberries, tangerines, oranges, brussel sprouts, garbanzo beans, mushrooms, onions, cucumbers, oatmeal, bran cereal, wheat flakes, pistachios

Methionine- seaweed, sesame flour/seeds, sunflower seeds, soy, tofu, turnips, spinach, asparagus, zucchini, black beans, kidney beans, green peas, peanuts, popcorn, pistachios, potatoes, bean sprouts, broccoli, squash, Brazil nuts, onions, garlic

Phenylanine- seaweed, kidney beans, peanuts, pumpkin leaves, spinach, broccoli raab, Swiss chard, turnip greens, amaranth leaves, sesame flour, cottonseed flour, walnuts, hazelnuts, flax seed

Threonine- soy, watercress, cabbage, pumpkin, seaweed, spinach, turnip greens, soybeans, alfalfa sprouts, kidney beans, Daikon, peanuts, flax seed, chickpeas, cauliflower, English walnuts, almonds, green snap peas, avocados, French bread, Chinese yams, wheat germ, buckwheat noodles, rye bread, brown rice

Tryptophan-spinach, watercress, soybeans, broccoli raab, turnip greens, pumpkin leaves, asparagus, mushrooms, kidney beans, beet greens, mung beans, lettuce, mustard greens, bamboo shoots, sesame flour, chia seeds

Valine- seaweed, watercress, mushrooms, peas, pumpkin leaves, kidney beans, spinach, portabella mushrooms, broccoli raab, turnips, turnip greens, peanuts, lentils, grains

Just for reference, these amounts are the recommended daily intake for the average person (143 lb adult):

  • 1235 mg of Isoleucine
  • 2795 mg of Leucine
  • 2470 mg of Lysine
  • 1235 mg of Methionine
  • 2145 mg of Phenylalanine
  • 1300 mg of Threonine
  • 325 mg of Tryptophan
  • 1560 mg of Valine
  • 910 mg of Histidine

Non-vegans can easily get all of these amino acids through eggs/egg whites, cottage cheese, cheese, fish and other dairy products, if they eat them. However, vegans can get them through combining a variety of foods listed above.

On that note, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, it may be necessary to take a B12 supplement. This is one vitamin most people will agree that you will probably not get adequate amounts of if you do not eat meat.

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