What are “amino acids” anyway?
"Amino acids" – whoever deals with nutrition and above all with sufficient protein intake will sooner or later stumble across them. These are urgently needed as protein building blocks. Because we cannot produce all of the amino acids ourselves, we have to get some of them from our diet.
In this article, we explain exactly what amino acids are, what you need them for and how you can also meet your needs with a vegan diet.
What is an amino acid?
Amino acids are various chemical compounds that form long chains in our body and thus produce proteins (or proteins). Every human cell contains protein, so they are involved in all important processes in our body. They are the building material for our muscles, tendons and bones. And that's not all: Hormones, antibodies and neurotransmitters also consist of proteins.
Amino acids are therefore indispensable for almost all functions and reactions that take place in our body every day. Without them we would simply not be able to survive.
There are over 250 types of amino acids, of which only 23 are involved in building our proteins. Proteins are formed when an amino acid combines with several others. So-called polypeptides, i.e. chain-like compounds made up of at least 10 amino acid particles, can fold and assemble to form proteins.
What are essential amino acids?
As already mentioned at the beginning, we have to get some of the 23 types of amino acids that are involved in building our body's proteins through our diet because we cannot produce them ourselves. We call these eight amino acids “essential” amino acids:
Six other amino acid types are considered "conditionally essential".
One speaks of a "conditionally essential" amino acid when it can actually be produced by the body, but this is not the case in certain phases of life. An example is the amino acid tyrosine: While an adult synthesizes the substance itself, a child's body cannot yet fully synthesize it. So this is an essential amino acid for a child, but not for a healthy adult.
Certain types of amino acids also become essential in other life situations, i.e. they belong to the conditionally essential. For example, the amino acid requirement changes during pregnancy or under high stress, such as in competitive sports.
Which foods contain essential amino acids?
All foods that contain a lot of protein are amino acid suppliers. Since animal foods in particular contain a lot of protein, they have a significantly higher amino acid density than plant foods. A chicken egg, for example, contains all eight essential types of amino acids.
However, that does not mean that a sufficient supply with a purely plant-based diet would not be possible - on the contrary: Even with a vegan diet, you can optimally supply your body with every essential amino acid if you make sure that you include good plant-based protein sources in your daily diet to integrate.
How do I cover every amino acid with plant-based nutrition?
In order to ensure a balanced amino acid household despite a plant-based diet, it is important to primarily consume foods whose protein provides a large amount of amino acids. But this is not so easy, especially since the protein content itself does not say much about whether every essential amino acid is included.
If you want to be sure that you are consuming sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids, you have two options: You look at the amino acid profile of the individual foods that you usually eat. This gives you information about whether everything you need is included or whether one or the other amino acid is missing.
Because we don't all become nutritionists and want to think all day long about whether we're still missing an amino acid and whether we're providing our body with the best possible nutrition, we usually go with option two: cleverly combining different proteins.
For example, grains contain very little of the amino acid lysine, which is abundant in legumes. Legumes, on the other hand, hardly provide any methionine, which is contained in cereals. If legumes and (whole grain) cereals are now eaten together, they can balance out their respective limiting amino acids. It is not absolutely necessary that they are in the same meal. It is enough to consume them on the same day.
Additionally, there are some plant foods that have a fairly balanced profile to begin with. Experts therefore recommend that people with a purely vegan diet include these foods in their nutrition plan:
The pseudo-grain is now available in many different forms and can be processed as flour, groats or flakes. It can be processed into porridge or patties, but also into pancakes , waffles or other pastries.
Another pseudo-grain that not only provides a lot of protein, but also other important nutrients. Quinoa can be used on its own as a side dish, in delicious one-pod dishes or in salads and desserts.
The soybean belongs to the legumes and is mainly sold as tofu, soy sauce, soy milk and soy yoghurt. Since cultivation in the tropical rainforests in particular is to be regarded as ecologically critical, we should preferably use products from Europe.
You already know our favorite superfood: Hemp seeds have a nutty taste and can simply be mixed into dough, salad, muesli or dessert and, of course, eaten in bar form as nuseed or nucao .
👉🏻 Would you like to learn a lot more about a balanced, vegan diet with enough proteins? Then take a look at our blog post about plant-based proteins and take a look at our shop . You can find exciting news and helpful tips on Instagram .