Amino acids (AAs) are the building blocks of the mighty macronutrient, Protein. Did you know that there are hundreds of AAs found in nature? Of these, the human body only requires a known 20 to grow, develop, and repair – and make all hormones and enzymes necessary for human life. The body can synthesise 11 of these AAs all by itself (pretty cool) so this makes them non-essential. The remaining 9 are considered essential because we need them, we can’t make them, so we need to acquire them from the diet.
A food containing all 9 essential amino acids in optimal amounts for human needs is commonly referred to as a complete protein. In general, animal-based sources of nutrition like eggs, meat and dairy sufficiently provide complete proteins to the diet, and can also be found in plant-based sources including soy, hemp, blue-green algae (spirulina), quinoa and buckwheat.
Most plants do in fact contain all AAs but in amounts found to be less optimal than animal-based foods – sometimes described as being incomplete as they would not be optimal for human needs. To make our plant-based proteins more optimally ‘complete’ we can simply combine plant-based sources with different AA profiles – to ‘build complete proteins’. For example – combining lentils with rice, adding nut butter to whole grain crackers or having salads with both beans and seeds. These do not need to be eaten all at the same time, just ensure they are consumed over the course of the day.
Protein requirements can easily be met by those who have a plant-based diet (vegan & vegetarian included), the KEY is ensuring we’re focusing on DIVERSITY, combining wonderful wholefoods and meeting Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) requirements to optimally provide the body with what it needs to be healthy.