High protein foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids include: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, and soy. Protein sources that contain all 9 essential amino acids are also refered to as “complete” proteins.
Proteins are sequenced combinations of 20 amino acids. 9 of those amino acids are considered essential because they are necessary for the body,but the body can’t make them.They must come from the foods we eat.
Protein builds, repairs, and maintains body tissues. Proteins also function as the building blocks of muscle. When carbohydrates and fat are in short supply, proteins provide energy. Complete protein sources contain all of the essential amino acids that are needed by the body. Each of those 9 essential amino acids provides a set of specific functions for the body.
Histidine – dilates vessels; helps absorb and transport zinc, helps to chelate (improve availability of) minerals; is a mild anti-inflammatory; is needed for the maintenance of myelin sheaths in the nervous system; produces histamine; and provides the effects (itching, swelling, etc.) of allergic reactions.
Isoleucine, Leucine, and Valine – They are called branched amino acids. All three have the same main functions. They stimulate protein synthesis and decrease protein breakdown. Although they have the same main functions they are each metabolized differently in the body. Leucine metabolizes fats, Valine metabolizes carbohydrates, and isoleucine metabolizes both fats and carbohydrates.
Lysine – plays a major role in calcium absorption; building muscle protein; recovering from surgery or sports injuries; and the body’s production of hormones, enzymes, and antibodies.
Methionine – detoxifies the body of heavy metals; facilitates the breakdown of fats; is needed for the absorption, transportation, and availability of selenium and zinc; and is needed for the formation of carnitine, choline, collagen, creatine, epinephrine, lecithin, melatonin, nulcleic acids, and serine. It also normalizes homocystein, and prevents fat accumulation in the liver and arteries.
Phenylalanine – assists in thyroid hormone formation; improves alertness, ambition, and mood; and it regulates the release of cholecystokinin (CCK), the hormone that signals the brain to feel satisfied after eating.
Threonine – helps metabolize fat; it is needed for proper digestion; it is needed for the formation
of tooth enamel, collagen, and eslastin; prevents the buildup of fat in the liver; and it stabilizes blood sugar.
Tryptophan – acts as a mood stabilizer; boosts the release of growth hormone; breaks down into serotonin (a calming neurotransmitter); helps with insomnia; is an inhibitory neurotransmitter; it is needed for the production of vitamin B3 (niacin); and it suppresses appetite.
Deficiency of protein essential amino acids can occur when proteins are not consumed regularly and in adequate amounts. Lack of protein consumption can lead to serious conditions such as stunted growth, decreased immunity, heart and respiratory failure, and death. The following are the symptoms of protein deficiency within each of the 9 essential amino acids:
Histidine – cataracts, eczema, indigestion, and joint pains.
Isoleucine, Leucine, and Valine – Studies are still being conducted on the deficiency symptoms of these amino acids. Although most people consume enough of these 3 essential amino acids in their diets, when an injury or stress occurs it results in an increased need for the amino acids.
Lysine – anemia, apathy, bloodshot eyes, depression, edema (swelling), fatigue, fever blisters, hair loss, inability to concentrate, infertility, irritability, loss of energy, muscle loss, stomach ulcers, stunted growth, and weakness.
Methionine – apathy, edema, fat loss, lethargy, liver damage, loss of pigmentation in hair, muscle loss, skin lesions, slow growth in children, and weakness.
Phenylalanine – agitation, headaches, increased blood pressure, insomnia, and nerve damage.
Threonine – depression, immunosuppression, indigestion, irritability, mental health deterioration, and reduced growth.
Tryptophan – decreased zinc levels, impaired growth, pellagra (a vitamin deficiency disease), and weight loss.
Note: A variety of medical conditions can lead to the symptoms mentioned above. Therefore, it is important to have a physician evaluate them so that appropriate medical care can be given.
Avoid taking supplements that isolate one or more amino acids and essential amino acids. It will create an imbalance in the system and cause adverse side effects. The best way to get an adequate supply of protein and essential amino acids is to consume a moderate supply of foods that contain complete protein. Like other nutrient recommendations, the key to protein consumption is moderation. Regularly consuming adequate amounts of protein, good carbohydrates, and healthy fats (in moderation) is the best way to create a healthy balance with energy foods for the body.
Since most complete proteins come from animal sources, it is very important for vegetarians and vegans to consume a variety of plant proteins such as legumes, whole grains, sprouted legumes and whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Complete proteins contain all of the 9 essential amino acids. Complete proteins are found in animal foods such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. Soybeans are the only plant source of complete protein.
Incomplete proteins lack one or more of the 9 essential amino acids. Sources of incomplete protein include beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. A small amount of incomplete protein is also found in vegetables.
Soybean nuts, roasted, 1/2 cup – (34 g)
Chicken breast, without skin, 3 oz – (29 g)
Top round beef 3 oz – (26 g)
Tuna 3 oz – (25 g)
Salmon 3 oz – (23 g)
Ground beef 3 oz – (21 g)
Lentils 1 cup – (18 g)
Baked beans 1 cup – (14 g)
Chickpeas, boiled, 1 cup – (14 g)
Cottage cheese 1/2 cup – (14 g)
Chicken nuggets 6 pieces – (14 g)
Turkey breast, roasted, 3 oz – (13 g)
Kidney beans, canned, 1 cup – (13 g)
Yogurt 1 cup – (10 g)
Tofu 1/2 cup – (10 g)
Milk 1 cup – (8 g)
Peanut butter, creamy, 2 tbsp – (8 g)
Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 oz – (7 g)
Cheddar cheese 1 oz – (7 g)
Walnuts, black, dried, 1 oz – (7 g)
Egg 1 large – (6 g)
Figs, dried, 10 figs – (6 g)
Almonds, dried, 1 oz – (6 g)
Sunflower seeds, dry roasted, 1 oz – (6 g)
Bread 2 slices (~ 6 g)
Coconut milk 1 cup – (5 g)
Peaches, dried, 10 peaches – (5 g)
Pasta 1 cup – (~ 5 g)
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 oz – (4 g)
Hazelnuts, filberts, dried, 1 oz – (4 g)
Avocado 1 medium – (4 g)
Raisins 2/3 cup – (3.4 g)
Corn, yellow, boiled, 1/2 cup – ( 3 g)
Brussels sprouts, boiled, 1/2 cup – (2 g)
Broccoli, boiled, 1/2 cup – (2 g)
Macadamia nuts, dried, 1 oz – (2 g)
Pecans, dry roasted, 1 oz – (2 g)
Sesame seeds 1 tbsp – (2 g)
Cantaloupe, raw, 1 cup – (1.4 g)
Apricots, dried, 10 apricots – (1.3 g)
Green beans, boiled, 1/2 cup – (1 g)
Kale, boiled, 1/2 cup – (1 g)
Carrots, raw, 1 medium – (1 g)
Banana 1 medium – (1 g)
Orange 1 medium – (1 g)
Kiwi 1 medium – (1 g)