Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and our bodies make use of 20 different amino acids to make proteins. Proteins are large molecules that do most of the work in the function of our bodies. They are necessary for our cells, hormones, tissues, muscles and immune systems.

  • Our bodies can actually synthesize, or create, some amino acids. But, there are nine amino acids that our bodies can’t make and we have to get them from nutritious food. They are called essential amino acids.
  • All amino acids have the same basic chemical structure which includes three groups; the amino group, the carboxyl acid group, and the R-group.
  • The main elements in amino acids are carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen.
  • It is very important for humans to have a healthy diet in order to get the nine essential amino acids. Our bodies do not store excess amino acids for future use, so failure to eat foods with these amino acids will result in malnutrition, weight loss, anemia, and muscle deterioration.
  • Proteins are made of long chains of amino acids. Each protein has its own sequence of amino acids and that sequence gives it its particular shape and function. There are thousands of different proteins in the human body, but they are all made of the same 20 amino acids.
  • There are actually hundreds of amino acids found in nature, but only about 20 of them are needed to make all the proteins found in most forms of life, including the human body.
  • Protein from animal sources like meat and eggs usually provides all of the amino acids that our bodies need. Protein from other sources like beans, nuts, and whole grains do not individually provide all of the amino acids. Fortunately, combinations of these foods, like peanut butter on toast, can provide all of the essential amino acids.
  • DNA uses the genetic code to encode the sequence of amino acids in proteins.
  • Amino acids have other uses besides nutrition in food. They are used in medicines and in cosmetics because of their mosturizing abilities.


Malnutrition: A serious condition that is caused by your body not getting enough of the nutrients that are available in healthy foods.

Proteins: Organic compounds that are made of long chains of amino acids. They are the cell’s building blocks and give structure to our muscles, hair, etc. Protein is found in many foods like meat, fish, eggs, poultry, bread, beans, nuts, and dairy products.

Questions and Answers

Question: Can vegetiarians get enough essential amino acids for a healthy diet.

Answer: Yes, but it is important that vegetarians eat a variety of high protein foods like beans, nuts, eggs, and dairy products.

The Amino Acid Selenocysteine

Watch a video to learn more about amino acids.