Protein: The Low Down

This article introduces you to the essential amino acids and provides you with the basics. 

The word ‘protein’ has become  one of the most successful marketing tool due to the current ‘protein hype’. Proteins are made up of amino acids. Amino acids are split up into three categories; non-essential amino acids (NEAA), conditionally essential amino acids (CEAA) and essential amino acids (EAA). 

NEAAs can be made in the body and are not required through the diet. CEAAs can be made in the body for the most part, they become essential during times of physiological stress and illness. EAA can not be made in the body and are required through the diet.

As they’re essential and have to be obtained through the diet, these are the ones I am going toconcentrate on. There are nine essential amino acids; histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine,  methyonine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine... Don’t worry you don’t have to remember them!It is their chemical structure which identifies them as essential and they vary between amino acids (I won’t bore you with the scientific differences!) 

Instead I’m going to focus on the key dietary sources of where these amino acids can be found:

Histidine: red meat, soya beans, chicken, tuna and wholegrains. 
Isoleucine: soya, seaweed, cheese and chicken.
Leucine: eggs, dairy, wholegrains and beans. 
Methyonine:dairy, beans, brazil nuts, eggs.
Phenylalanine: egg whites, soy products and dairy.
Threonine: egg whites, beef and lentils. 
Tryptophan: eggs, tofu, nuts, pumpkin seeds and salmon. 
Valine: seeds, nuts, beef, lentils and mushrooms.

As you can see many of the sources contain a range of amino acids. Therefore, if you’re eating a balanced diet with a variety of good quality proteins you should not be at risk of protein deficiency. Evidently these proteins come from whole natural foods so don’t be fooled or alarmed by the clever marketing of some the new ‘protein products’. If you’re consuming a balanced diet there really is no need to dig deeper into your wallets to ensure you’re getting your fix!