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What are amino acids?

2 min read

Amino acids are the compounds that combine to make up protein. Proteins are an essential part of all living cells - they play a crucial role in almost all biological processes and make up the largest proportion of the body behind water.

Amino acids have an influence on the function of organs, glands, tendons and arteries. They are essential for healing wounds and repairing tissue, especially in the muscles, bones, skin and hair as well as for the removal of different kinds of waste deposits produced as part of the body's metabolic system.

Amino acids can be classified into the following three groups:

  • Essential amino acids
  • Non-essential amino acids
  • Semi-essential amino acids

Essential amino acids

Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body,  as a result they must come from the food we eat. Essential amino acids include
  • isoleucine
  • leucine
  • lysine
  • methionine
  • phenylalanine
  • threonine
  • tryptophan
  • valine

Nonessential amino acids

"Non-essential" means that our bodies are able to produce the amino acid even if we don't get it externally. Non-essential amino acids include:
  • lanine
  • asparagine
  • aspartic acid
  • cysteine
  • glutamine
  • glutamic acid
  • glycine
  • proline
  • serin
  • tyrosine

Semi-essential amino acids

These include arginine and histidine - they have to be consumed in the diet under certain circumstances.

You don't need to consume non-essential amino acids at every meal, however it is important to get a balance of them over the course of a day. The amount of semi-essential and non-essential amino acids produced by the body itself depends on a number of things such as age and/or mental and physical stress - these determine the amino acid levels required for any particular individual to stay fit and healthy.

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.