avocado, eggs, asparagus and other foods high in amino acids

Think back to your classroom days… you probably remember that amino acids are important nutrients to get on a daily basis. If you’re like me, you probably can’t really articulate what amino acids actually are, why they are important, or what they do.

What Are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. The human body is made up of thousands upon thousands of protein, and each protein is made up of amino acids. Whenever you eat protein, the body breaks it down to amino acids, then rebuilds those amino acids for use throughout the body.


There are 20 standard amino acids that help form protein, 9 of which are essential amino acids, that is, aminos the body can’t produce on its own). They are:



Amino Acids that Your Body Can Make on Its Own

  • Alanine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Asparagine
  • Glutamic acid
  • Serine
  • Arginine*
  • Cysteine*
  • Glycine*
  • Glutamine*
  • Proline*
  • Tyrosine*

* Production of these amino acids can be hindered by physical, sickness,  conditions

Essential Amino Acids that You Get from Your Foods

  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Methionine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Lysine
  • Histidine


What Do Amino Acids Actually Do?

Amino acids are probably best known for helping protein build muscle, which benefits everything from your biceps to your heart, which we know is a muscle. It’s easier for me to think of amino acids as colored Lego blocks. Each block represents a different amino acid. Your body uses these 20 blocks in different combinations to build different things. And if one or more of these blocks is missing or deficient from your body’s supply of blocks, there are direct consequences.

Amino acids impact every system in the body. Muscle-building and recovery require amino acids. Amino acids have been linked to abdominal (visceral) fat loss. Amino acids help reverse muscle breakdown, according to Bodybuilding.com. Amino acids can help you regulate energy and increase endurance, improve your mood, and boost your body’s ability to fight off illness.  Amino acids also play a key role producing hair, nails, and collagen.

Best Low-Carb Sources of Amino Acids

Typically, when people think of getting enough protein, they focus on eating more meat, but dairy and plants are also good sources of the types of proteins that have sufficient amounts of essential amino acids. These are called complete proteins. You can also combine incomplete proteins to make one complete protein.

Complete Proteins

Animal Sources
Beef Poultry (skinless) Fish and seafood
Wild game Pork Eggs
Cheese Yogurt Milk


If you’re watching your intake of animal protein, there are also great sources of complete proteins that you can get on a plant-based diet.

Plant Sources
Chia seeds Hemp seed (a little low in lysine) Spirulina
Peanut butter Peanut butter Mycoprotein (Quorn)


Best Incomplete Proteins

Avocado Coconut oil Macadamia nut
Brazil nuts Pecans Spinach
Broccoli Edamame Watercress
Asparagus Alfalfa sprouts Bok choy
Brussels sprouts Greens (collards, mustard) Cauliflower
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