Amino Acids: Definition, Significance, Diet & Important Benefits

Medically reviewed by Maria Sarino, MD FACT CHECKED

In this article, I have discussed about the amino acids that may be considered to play a major role in our body functions.

Along with this, I have also talked about benefits of amino acids and the significance of amino acids and how could they be consumed.

Hence, if you are also eager to know all about the amino acids, then your might wish to continue reading this article through the end.

all about amino acids

The world never ceases to fascinate. A plethora of riddles, discoveries, and innovations emerged. 

Humans have gone a long way, and there is still much more to be done. The magnificent branch of chemistry, amidst all the refinement and turmoil, has its beauty.

It is a more dynamic approach due to the interdependence of one branch on the other. Organic molecules, a sub-branch of chemistry, appear to be very indulging for some. 

Amino acids have recently gotten a lot of attention in the health world. 

They are not only laboratory-relevant chemical substances but also biomolecules that are necessary for life to exist. 

Let us try to better comprehend what amino acids are and what role they play in our bodies. Through this article, let us try to understand better what amino acids are and what vital role they play for the human body.

What Does The Term “Amino Acid” Mean As Per Chemistry?

Amino acids are a subset of organic compounds. This means they are carbon compounds. Therefore it is evident that it has carbon involved in it. 

Other than that, it has an amino and carboxyl group which are written as NH2 and COOH respectively. They are attached to the carbon atom and have a side chain called R.

This chain is usually a carbon chain. It has to be distinct for every amino acid. More about Amino Acids here.

What Is The Biological Significance Of Amino Acids?

You must be wondering why it is so important and always talked about whenever health and health issues are being discussed. The answer is:

Amino acids, when they combine form proteins. Proteins and amino acids together could act as the building blocks of life.

The classification of amino acids is also not difficult to understand. Based on its requirement for the body and production, it has two subdivisions, essential amino acids, and non-essential amino acids. 

Our body needs a total of 20 amino acids for healthy functioning and protein making. Out of these 20, there are 9 essential and 11 non-essential amino acids. 

The essential ones are not produced by the body. “Essential” highlights that these are supposed to be included in the diet.

They are 

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

The non-essential ones are not liable to dietary intake as they are synthesized by the body. The main source for synthesizing them is glucose.  

Their names are:

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

Just because they are called non-essential doesn’t make them non-essential, they are equally beneficial and important.

The Best Way Of Dietary Intake: Complete Proteins

This is the most basic question which creates the maximum confusion. Since amino acids are so vital, it is important to be consuming enough to keep the body healthy. 

A lot of trainers and health experts talk of the term “complete proteins”. It is very hard for a layman to understand what it is and what type of foods it includes. 

So to simplify it, foods that contain all the essential amino acids in them are termed complete proteins.

To avoid overeating just to have enough essential amino acids from different foods might sound like a bad idea. And indeed, it is! 

Rather than consuming them separately from a bunch of foods, it is better to consider complete proteins. 

Foods like pork, red meat, and eggs and seafood like salmon and tuna are great choices. 

They are good sources of complete proteins. They are rich in other vitamins and minerals too which is a plus point for a balanced diet. 

People can choose complete proteins based on their eating habits and preferences.

These foods eliminate the need of adding extra food to the plate as they are all in one source of all essential amino acids with a proportion of other nutrients too. 

The amino acids provided by these foods make proteins for the body. A chain of amino acids forms the basic structure of proteins. 

These proteins are called building blocks for a reason. They help in making new cells and repairing old ones. 

Not only this, they are very vital for the growth of kids and teenagers. They are an important factor for muscle build-up and normal metabolism. 

They help in several biochemical reactions and are a must for a healthy lifestyle. 

Now, reading the above-stated examples might make you wonder that the only sources mentioned are animal proteins. The reason is they are the best source out of all.

No Hope For Vegetarians And Vegans?

Don’t lose hope if you are one of these, just because the animal-based sources are good doesn’t mean there’s nothing in the box for vegetarians and vegans. 

Dairy products like milk and cheese are an option for the vegetarian club. They are not only rich in amino acids but can bring a lot more advantages along. 

The vegans have a very refreshing and wide range of options that may be one of their favorites. It is Soy (the only known complete plant-based protein). 

Other than these legumes, nuts, chia seeds, and quinoa are some other plant sources.

Importance And Benefits

After understanding the basics, it’s time to roll onto the most significant portion which is both, the gist and motive behind the insights.

The most important function of amino acids is in the synthesis of proteins. The peptide bonds link amino acids to form a chain. This helps in protein formation.

Let us look at the benefits and the underlying amino acid resulting in healthy magic. 

  • Magical for Muscle Tissues

    Amino acids are very important for building and maintaining muscle tissues. Along with this, they regulate insulin levels which help control blood sugar levels.
    They also help in healing skin and bones and boost the production of human growth hormones.
    It also promotes energy metabolism. These are taken care of by leucine and isoleucine.
    Additionally, isoleucine increases glucose consumption and takes care of the immune system and intestinal development.

  • Buddy for Brain

    Tyrosine may improve the performance of a person under stressful situations. Therefore, it is considered good for mental health.
    It may boost alertness during sleep and also sharpen the memory. Asparagine is useful for brain functioning except for protein synthesis.
    It can maintain equilibrium in the central nervous system, keeping the emotions balanced and controlled.
    Amino acids produce neurotransmitters and look after brain function. Tryptophan is known as a precursor to serotonin which is a neurotransmitter and melatonin which plays a key role in sleep.
    More info about Tryptophan is here.

  • Stress and Sleep

    Glycine is considered the simplest amino acid. It has a calming action that may improve sleep.
    As already mentioned, even tryptophan improves the quality of sleep. Lysine can help reduce anxiety as it suppresses receptors that respond to stress.
    Tyrosine may improve the performance of a person under stressful situations. Therefore, it is considered good for mental health.
    It may boost alertness during sleep and also sharpen the memory. Tryptophan is used in drugs as it may help reduce depression and improve sleep.

  • Detoxification and Antioxidants

    Methionine detoxifies the body and has antioxidant properties. Cysteine is the precursor to glutathione- an antioxidant.
    Glutamine and alanine also have the same role to play i.e. removing toxins.

  • Better Digestion

    The amino acid, histidine, assists in histamine formation. This plays a role in inflammation, secretion of gastric acids, and digestion.
    Even threonine and glutamic acid aid to help the gut. They are good for metabolism.

  • Weight Loss

    Phenylalanine plays a key role in this function. Not only this, its concentration in the blood determines hunger levels.
    If a person has an adequate amount of phenylalanine intake, hunger and cravings are reduced, which helps in weight loss.

  • RBC and WBC

    Histidine is part of enzymatic processes and also helps in the formation of red and white blood cells.

  • Insulin and Diabetes

    Alanine helps in both the production and conversion of glucose to energy. It can improve blood sugar levels.
    Glutamine may also help in diabetes treatment as it focuses on glucose utilization and blood sugar levels management.

  • Heart and high BP

    Arginine may help treat clogged arteries and high blood pressure. Further, this could help in keeping your heart healthy.

  • Healthy skin

    Proline combines with essential vitamins like vitamin B6, and vitamin C to ensure enzymes are adequate in amount for healthy skin.
    Cysteine is a component of protein present in nails and skin. 

  • Other roles

    Aspartic acid is important for immunity. Other than this, benefits may include boosted testosterone levels and fertility. The formation of RNA and DNA come under its roles.

    Serine can prove to be useful in refreshing the mood, improving cognitive function, muscle buildup, fat metabolism, kidney remodeling, memory support, and recovery after exercising. 
    Glutamine acts as a fuel for immune cells. It may also help in maintaining intestinal tissue integrity. Muscle repair and acting as an anti-inflammatory substance are some other roles it can play. More info on immune cells here.

    Cysteine may help reduce the extent of liver damage and hangover caused by alcohol.
    Glutamic acid is great for overall wellness and health. Certain specific benefits are:
    It can improve endurance, brain function, and post-workout recovery.
    Asparagine can maintain equilibrium in the central nervous system, keeping the emotions balanced and controlled.
    Arginine is non-essential for grownups but not for newborns. Therefore, the infants have to be given this through diet. More benefits of arginine here.

    It improves cell formation, and division and releases hormones. It also helps in the removal of ammonia from the body.

    Glycine can also help with reward-seeking behaviors and wound healing. It is the primary ingredient of collagen. Tryptophan improves pain tolerance.
    Valine is very crucial during fasting or exhaustion. Lysine is responsible for cell division. It speeds up the wound healing process.
    It helps in absorbing calcium and collagen formation. Therefore, it is vital for bone health. Methionine increases the absorption of zinc and selenium. More info on calcium metabolism is here.

    It acidifies the urine. It also synthesizes cysteine, carnitine, lecithin, and phosphatidylcholine. 
    It also protects the liver from damage due to poisoning from acetaminophen. Histidine increases stamina so it can show benefits for the sportsperson or anyone in general.
    It also forms myelin sheath(a protective barrier around nerves). Threonine may exhibit the properties of preventing tendon and muscle injuries.

Final Words

You are reading this means you read this article. By now you may  have known most of the important things about the amino acids.

The addition of amino acid health support substances may help you in enhancing  your overall body function.

Further, this could also strengthen your physical and mental health altogether through the course of its consumption.