When I became a health coach I learnt how important fruits and vegetables were in our diet. I was amazed by how many different phytonutrients they contain – thousands upon thousands of tiny powerhouses that go way beyond the few vitamins we would get from our regular multivitamin supplement.
As I embark on my functional medicine training my attention has turned towards amino acids. These building blocks are essential for so many functions within the body – particularly cellular metabolism and structure. You also need them for healthy joints, skin, hair and nails.
After our mid-twenties our amino acid absorption starts to reduce.
What does that mean for us?
It means we are more likely to suffer with tired, achey joints, our skin will start to show signs of ageing and our nails and hair might become weaker and more brittle. Having rubbish hair and nails is bad enough as it is BUT the condition of our hair and nails also gives us an indication of problems we can’t see on the inside. This study is a fabulous (but very in-depth) explanation of nutritional deficiencies and how they manifest in the nails.
Where do we get amino acids?
VEGANS SKIP THIS SECTION!
Amino Acids are protein. And they’re found mostly from the parts of meat that even meat eaters don’t eat! You’ll find them in the joints and ligaments of beef and other meats.
This is why bone broth has become so popular. Slow cooking all the bones, including the cartilage releases the amino acids.
NOTE: We must consume organic and pasture-raised meat (meat that’s actually allowed to roam and forage it’s food!) Cows actually should be able to roam and eat grass. Chickens don’t eat corn. They’re not vegetarian! They want to dig for worms! Animals raised like this not only have a better quality of life ( #ethicalfarming ) but they also have a vastly better nutritional profile.
If you don’t fancy making up a bone broth after your Sunday roast every week – you can cheat. Yay!! Hydrolysed collagen provides you with lots of amino acids and can be added to any hot or cold drink. I add mine to my coffee in the morning. Such a simple healthy addition.
Personally I use Great Lakes Gelatin Company Collagen – it’s available on Amazon and their animals are well-reared for optimum nutrition.
OK VEGANS – YOU’RE SAFE TO READ AGAIN
You CAN get amino acids from plant sources – although you need to work a bit harder and smarter to ensure you consume all 9 of the essential amino acids (ie the amino acids that we cannot make within the body and MUST consume).
Top sources of plant-based amino acids:
- Soy – read up on how to choose the right soy here
- Rice and beans – alone neither of these foods can be considered a complete protein, but as a pair they’re perfect. Also works for rice and chickpeas or lentils.