You may have heard that vegetarian and vegan diets they do not contain enough protein or that vegetable proteins are not as complete as those in meat. And there are many doubts about amino acids and proteins. Actually, it’s your body that “manufactures” the proteins it needs with amino acids that food provides, and vegetables contain all the essentials.

But to understand why amino acids are so important, you must first understand what proteins are and what they are for. In fact, the word protein comes from the Greek proteinswhich means “the first thing” or “the most important thing.”

Proteins serve to form and repair cellular structures: muscles, bones, skin, the different types of tissues that make up the organs, etc. In addition, they fulfill other essential functions, such as the production of hormones, immune antibodies and enzymes. Proteins are also a source of energy in case of carbohydrate and fat deficiency.

Therefore, to enjoy health it is essential that the body be able to manufacture proteins, made up of long chains of hundreds or thousands of amino acids.

What are and what are essential amino acids?

The proteins in our body wear out and must be replaced frequently. To synthesize new proteins, our body needs twenty amino acidsof which eight are essential (nine in children)that is, we need to ingest them with the diet since our body does not synthesize them.

The essential amino acids are: histidine (in children), tryptophan, valine, leucine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, threonine, methionine and lysine.

The body cannot use the proteins in food as we eat them: it first has to break them down to isolate essential amino acidswhich will then be recombined in the cells’ ribosomes to create our own proteinsfollowing the instructions of our genes.