Problems with essential amino acids

Nutritional problems of a vegetarian diet

What problems can vegetarians have with essential amino acids?

One of the alleged problems with the vegetarian diet is the need to cover the amino acids necessary for the formation of proteins. Other non-vegetarian food such as eggs or meat, are very rich in essential amino acids

These important nutrients and essential in some cases, if not properly provided can provoke nutritional deficiencies being a risk factor for a multitude of problems, disorders and diseases, unnecessary and avoidable.

One of the more usual shortcomings is not to supplement the food well and,therefore, do not provide all the essential amino acids necessary for our body.

Essential amino acids

They are amino acids that our body can not synthesize alone, requiring them to be ingested. If food does not contain all the essential amino acids necessary, very harmful to our health deficiencies will appear.

To avoid this situation we must learn how plant foods should be combined to get all the essential amino acids and which are the limiting amino acids.

Fried eggs

Eggs are the most complete protein food

How many amino acids are essential?

For needed protein can meet our needs without creating a nutritional deficit, we must make supply of 8 essential amino acids.

In the case of children in growth stages, there is one more essential amino acid, that is, they need nine essential amino acids. There is an essential amino acid called histidine, which in adulthood is no longer essential because the body can synthesize from other amino acids.

What are the essential amino acids?

Essential amino acids are:









Histidine. (Only in children)

As the name implies, they are essential, and therefore should be part of our diet.

The problem arises when foods such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are eliminated from our diet, since this kind of food has complete proteins because they contain all essential amino acids.

Compensatory action, through a combination of foods that have not been eliminated from our diet, will provide all the required nutrients. That is, if we eliminate a food that gives us a necessary nutrient, this must be contributed by other food or by combining several of them.

Combining the essential amino acids in a vegetarian diet

In a vegetarian and vegan diet, food combining is the key to provide all essential amino acids. If that is not successful combination, diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

This happens because we do not eat food from animal origin and products we get from them, which contain all the essential amino acids, reason why they are considered to consist of complete proteins.

In contrast, plant foods are formed by incomplete proteins, that is to say, they lack some essential amino acids.

This essential amino acid that lacks or is contained in very low concentrations is called limiting amino acid.

Limiting amino acids combinations

Amino acids that cost more to get are considered limiting amino acids. They do not have to be a problem of nutritional deficiency for vegetarian people, or affect their health as they can, and must be, easily obtained by combining correctly several vegetable foods .

Limiting amino acids are hardly found in some food groups. For example, the group of cereals is poor in some amino acids, such as lysine and threonine, but they are rich in tryptophan and methionine. Therefore, the limiting amino acids in this food group are lysine and threonine.

Instead, the food group of legumes are low in methionine and tryptophan, but very rich in lysine. Methionine is the limiting amino acid of this food group.

The combination of foods is based precisely on properly combining the different food groups, so that nutritional deficits that have some groups can supply other deficient group.

If we consume and combine properly in our diet cereals and legumes, no nutritional deficiencies will be generated. All the required essential aminoacids will be provided and this combination will bring an optimal nitrogen balance.

Moreover, it is not necessary to consume the required food together, but within a period not exceeding 3 hours.

* Related information:

Essential amino acids

Properties of proteins

Protein formation

Daily proteins needs

Vegetal proteins

How to combine vegetable proteins

punto rojo More information on amino acids.

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

23 July, 2021

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