Should You Supplement with the Amino Acid GABA?

Discover the science behind GABA supplements, what this neurotransmitter does, and whether or not it’s effective in treating stress, insomnia, high blood pressure, and anxiety disorders. 

Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter in our brains. Low GABA levels are known to be associated with movement and anxiety disorders, so some people will take GABA supplements to help improve the function of their minds and central nervous systems. Read on to find out how GABA works, and whether or not it may be appropriate for you.

What Is GABA? How Does GABA Work? Where Can You Find It?

GABA is classified as an inhibitory neurotransmitter due to its ability to block certain signals in the brain. GABA decreases activity in the central nervous system and binds with proteins in the brain known as GABA receptors, which creates a calming effect that helps ameliorate feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety. GABA may also help prevent seizures.

Because of these abilities, GABA has become a popular dietary supplement.

For those who want to know how to increase GABA naturally, GABA is found in oolong, black, and green tea, and fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, kefir, and tempeh. GABA production can be boosted by other foods, including nuts like almonds and walnuts, seafood like halibut and shrimp, whole grains, soy, beans, sunflower seeds, spinach, broccoli, fava, tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries, and cocoa.

Who Should Take GABA Supplements?

The reason people take GABA supplements is to get better access to its calming influence on the brain. GABA supplements are thought to relieve stress, and in so doing improve your overall health, because excess stress can lead to a weakened immune system, poor sleep quality, and a higher risk for anxiety and depression. There are also some health conditions that are associated with lower levels of GABA, so if you have any of the following health concerns, then GABA supplementation may be good for you.

People may need more GABA if they have:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Depression
  • Hypertension
  • Insomnia
  • Panic disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Movement disorders (including Parkinson’s disease)
  • Seizure disorders

Consult a qualified health care professional if you’re on any other medications for these conditions, and ask your doctor if GABA supplements could help manage some of the symptoms associated with these disorders. If you’re considering taking a GABA supplement, read on to find out how upping your intake of GABA affects your brain cells and may help improve your quality of life.

The science behind GABA supplements.

Are GABA Supplements Effective?

Even when supplementing with GABA, research suggests that only small amounts actually make it past the blood-brain barrier and reach your nerve cells. However, when it comes to some of the following uses of GABA, every little bit can count. Here is what the scientific research has to say about the effect of GABA on the human body.

GABA for Anxiety and Depression

This 2003 review on GABA usage for anxiety asserts that GABA is known to counterbalance the affect of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, and plays a role in multiple neurobiological interactions that are relevant to those with anxiety disorders. It supports the use of GABAergic agents in treating anxiety, as does this 2012 article on the GABA system in anxiety and depression cases, which also points out that certain GABAA receptor modulators and GABAB antagonists could serve as potential antidepressants.

GABA for Insomnia

One small study from 2018 tested GABA on participants with insomnia and found that 300 milligrams of GABA taken an hour before going to sleep resulted in reports of people falling asleep faster and noting improved sleep quality in the first 4 weeks after starting GABA treatment. Though there were only 40 participants, these results suggest that effects of GABA supplements in humans may beneficially impact sleep habits.

GABA for High Blood Pressure

There are many studies that have evaluated GABA-containing products and their effectiveness at lowering blood pressure. A 2003 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming fermented milk with GABA helped significantly lower blood pressure levels in participants with elevated blood pressure in 2-4 weeks (compared to the placebo group). And a 2009 study revealed that consuming a GABA-containing chlorella supplement 2 times a day lowered the blood pressure of subjects with borderline hypertension.

GABA for Stress and Fatigue

In 2011 Japanese researchers found that consuming a beverage with either 25 or 50 milligrams of GABA resulted in reduced measurements of physical and mental fatigue during problem-solving tasks, with the higher dose being slightly more effective.

A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition showed that consuming chocolate containing 28 milligrams of GABA also reduced stress in participants as they performed a problem-solving test. Yet again in 2012, capsules with 100 milligrams of GABA led to reduced stress during the performance of a mental task. While these are small studies, they nevertheless appear to consistently show that GABA helps reduce stress and fatigue in human beings.

The Potential Side Effects of GABA Supplements

Though the side effects of GABA have not been specifically studied, there have been some reported side effects from people taking GABA supplements, including:

  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sleepiness
  • Upset stomach

Since GABA appears to be useful in treating insomnia, it can cause feelings of sleepiness and shouldn’t be taken before driving or operating heavy machinery until you’re aware of how it affects you in whatever dosage you’re consuming it at.

There is also very little research done on GABA’s interaction potential with other supplements or medications, so it’s recommended that you seek medical advice if you’re currently taking any medication, particularly for insomnia, anxiety, or depression, and make sure that your doctor is aware of this or any other herb, supplement, or over-the-counter drug you’re consuming.

Go Gaga for GABA

GABA is a natural part of our body’s function, and plays an important role as a chemical messenger in our brains. Though the research on GABA as a supplement is somewhat skimpy, there are scientifically founded indications that it may help reduce anxiety, stress, high blood pressure, and insomnia.

It’s not just “supplements or bust” with GABA however, as practicing yoga can also lead to an increase of GABA levels, up to 27%! With a little yoga, some fermented foods, and the right GABA supplement, you could have all the bases covered when it comes to reducing the symptoms of certain dangerous medical conditions, and getting your brain in the right frame of mind.

Top 12 Foods with Zinc

Find out the symptoms and consequences of zinc deficiency, plus the top 12 foods that contain zinc and can provide you with this essential nutrient for your senses, growth, and healing. 

Zinc is a trace mineral found throughout the body that is necessary for our immune system’s function, cell growth and division, wound healing, and our senses of taste and smell. Zinc is needed in over 300 enzyme functions in the body, and yet the body doesn’t store zinc as a reserve. Instead, zinc is used as needed to metabolize nutrients, and so we need to get a regular supply of it via our food or dietary supplement. For men this means 11 milligrams of zinc per day, and for women, it’s 8 milligrams unless they are pregnant or breastfeeding, when the requirement jumps up to 12 milligrams per day. This article will explore the symptoms and consequences of zinc deficiency, plus arm you with a list of the top 12 foods with zinc, so you’ll never have to go without this important nutrient.

Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency and Those at Risk

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you might be more prone to zinc deficiency due to a lack of meat in your diet. Likewise those with digestive diseases such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or ulcerative colitis may develop a deficiency due to poor absorption rates. Those with certain cancers, alcohol addiction, or diabetes are also at a higher risk. Breastfeeding and pregnant women, the elderly, as well as children and teens run the risk of becoming zinc deficient more easily. What follows next is a list of symptoms, so you can better recognize the signs of zinc deficiency.

  • Slowed growth
  • Poor immune functioning
  • Appetite loss
  • Hair loss
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Compromised night vision
  • White spots on nails
  • A funny-tasting sensation
  • Lethargy
  • Fine tremors (unintentional muscle movements)

A moderate deficiency can be fixed with dietary changes. A severe deficiency may require zinc supplements and advice from a medical professional on how to best restore zinc levels.

The Top 12 Foods with Zinc

If you’re looking for foods high in zinc, look no further than the following list of top 12 zinc-rich foods.

The top 12 foods with zinc.

1. Legumes

Legumes include lentils, beans, and chickpeas, and are some of the best foods around for those who don’t eat meat to gain plant sources of protein and zinc. In 100 grams of lentils for example, you can get 12% of the daily recommended intake of zinc (for a man or pregnant/nursing woman).

Animal sources of zinc are better absorbed due to the fact that legumes also contain phytates, which can inhibit the absorption of zinc and other minerals. Regardless, legumes are an excellent source of fiber and protein that can be easily included in stews, salads, and soups—an easy and beneficial addition.

Bioavailability can also be increased with sprouting, fermenting, and soaking plant sources of zinc, which is great news for those seeking foods with zinc for vegan diets.

2. Meat

Meat is a strong source of zinc, especially red meat. Lamb, pork, bison, and beef are foods with high zinc and iron content, plus creatine and B vitamins. For zinc, raw ground beef contains 4.8 milligrams of zinc, 43% of a man’s RDI.

Though not everyone will want to eat large amounts of red meat due to its association with heart disease, it can still nevertheless be included moderately in a balanced diet to gain the positives without risking much in negative effects.

3. Seeds

Squash seeds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds: all of these seeds help increase your zinc intake. They can be easily added to other foods like yogurts and salads, or enjoyed on their own as snacks in trail mixes or granola bars.

Some seeds contain more zinc than others. Hemp seeds in particular have 31% of a man’s RDI in just 3 tablespoons (30 grams) of seeds. That being said, sesame, squash, and pumpkin seeds each have significant amounts of zinc, as well as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Including more seeds in your diet can help to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol, so they’re a fantastic resource for your health.

4. Shellfish

Shellfish like oysters and shrimp are low-calorie, healthy sources of zinc. Just six medium oysters can provide 32 milligrams of zinc, 290% of a man’s recommended daily intake. This category includes Alaskan crab, clams, scallops, mussels, and lobster.

It’s recommended that you cook shellfish thoroughly to avoid food poisoning, and also that you use a wet heat method of cooking like steaming, boiling, poaching, or braising instead of dry heat methods like grilling, broiling, sautéing, roasting, or baking, as those tend to reduce the zinc levels in shellfish.

5. Eggs

Eggs have about 5% of a man’s RDI per large whole egg, and they also bring 5 grams of healthy fats, 6 grams of protein, and vitamins and minerals. One of the foods with high zinc and selenium content, eggs also have an assortment of B vitamins and choline, which is important for many of the steps in our metabolism, and a nutrient that most of us do not get enough of from our diets.

6. Nuts

Cashews, almonds, peanuts (yes, we know technically they’re legumes but we’re eating them like nuts!), pine nuts, and more: all of these nuts can boost your zinc intake, as well as provide healthy fats, fiber, and a dazzling array of other vitamins and nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin E, and folate.

Nuts are foods with zinc and magnesium, and among the nuts, your best source of zinc are cashews, with about 14% of a man’s RDI amount in a 1-ounce serving. Convenient, hearth healthy, and excellent for reducing the risk factors of diabetes, nuts have also been associated with greater longevity.

7. Certain Vegetables

Though vegetables and plant foods tend to be poorer sources of zinc than animal products, it’s nevertheless possible to get zinc from certain vegetables. For those who don’t eat meat, both sweet and regular potatoes have about 1 gram of zinc per large spud, 9% of a man’s daily recommended. Green veggies like green beans and kale contribute a small portion of zinc as well, about 3% of the RDI per 100 grams. While they may not contain a lot of zinc, greens like kale do contain chart-topping portions of vitamin K and vitamin A, and a vegetable-rich diet is associated with risk reduction for conditions like heart disease and cancer.

8. Dairy Products

Dairy products like milk and cheese have high amounts of particularly bioavailable zinc, meaning it’s more easily absorbed by your body. Just 100 grams of cheddar cheese has around 28% of a man’s RDI of zinc, and 1 cup of full-fat milk has about 9%. With calcium for bone health, vitamin D, and protein, dairy products are good sources of zinc, especially for any lacto-vegetarians.

9. Certain Fruits

Zinc-rich fruits include avocados, blackberries, pomegranate, raspberries, guava, cantaloupe, apricots, peaches, kiwifruit, and blueberries. With healthy fats in avocados and the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of berries, though they don’t have very much zinc content compared to animal sources, these fruits are nevertheless more food sources that can help keep your body plentiful with zinc.

10. Whole Grains

Wheat, rice, oats, and quinoa each contain some zinc, though like the legumes listed above, they also contain phytates that can bind with zinc and inhibit its absorption. Whole grains contain more phytates than refined grains do, but they are still better for your health overall, as they also contain nutrients like B vitamins, selenium, magnesium, iron, and valuable fiber. Eating whole grains is associated with a reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, and so very much worth including in your diet for the other health benefits they bring.

11. Dark Chocolate

Among the foods with zinc and copper, dark chocolate has pretty fair amounts of zinc, about 30% of a man’s daily recommended intake with 3.3 milligrams of zinc per 100 grams. The only issue, of course, is that 100 grams of dark chocolate means 600 calories worth of food, so though dark chocolate has valuable nutrient content, it’s still a food that is best eaten in moderation, and not thought of as a main source of zinc.

12. Fortified Breakfast Cereals

Fortified breakfast cereals are a good source of zinc because they’re designed to make up the difference in specific vitamins and nutrients we’re often lacking in our diets. Great for growing children and adults, certain breakfast cereals will not only provide you with the benefits of zinc, but also with calcium, dietary fiber, and a cavalcade of vitamins.

From A to Zinc

Good sources of zinc like meat, nuts, seafood, dairy, and legumes are great to have as staples in your diet. The foods containing only marginal amounts of this essential mineral are still important too, as they round out your diet in a balanced fashion. Now you know that foods containing zinc are as diverse as they come, from just about every building block on the food pyramid. With their help, you could get regular amounts of zinc every day, and hardly notice the effort!

Vibrio Vulnificus: The Flesh-Eating Bacteria

Vibrio vulnificus strikes approximately 205 Americans each year and is the main cause of seafood-related deaths. If you think you may be suffering from a vulnificus infection, don’t hesitate to seek immediate medical attention.

Affecting humans and primates, Vibrio vulnificus is a type of gram-negative bacterium found in warm, shallow coastal water. First discovered in 1979, this Vibrio species is common in the Gulf of Mexico as well as parts of the East and West Coasts of the United States, including the Gulf Coast region comprising Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi.

When infected with V. vulnificus, patients can suffer an array of symptoms ranging from serious gastroenteritis (from consuming affected seafood) to soft tissue infections and necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating bacteria.

It’s important to note that a Vibrio infection is a serious condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in seven people with V. vulnificus dies, and others require intensive care or even limb amputation. Vibrio vulnificus strikes approximately 205 Americans each year and is the main cause of seafood-related deaths. If you think you may be suffering from a vulnificus infection, don’t hesitate to seek immediate medical attention.

How Do You Get Vibrio Vulnificus?

People most commonly contract V. vulnificus as a result of consuming raw or undercooked shellfish, such as raw oysters. However, skin infections also occur if an individual with an open wound is exposed to salt water.

According to the CDC, living in hurricane-prone regions is a high-risk factor for a vulnificus infection due to exposure to coastal water, particularly between the months of May and October, when water temperatures are warmer (9° to 31 °C).

While anyone can contract a Vibrio infection, the condition is more common in those with compromised immune systems or liver diseases. Additionally, those who have undergone recent stomach surgery may be at an increased risk.

To protect yourself from V. vulnificus, try to avoid raw oyster consumption or eating any shellfish that has not been thoroughly cooked. The authors of a review article in Frontiers in Microbiology reference studies that show this Vibrio species was found in “3.5–8% of seafood samples in Europe, 2.4% of shrimp from Southeast Asia, 75% of freshly harvested oysters in India, and 100% of oysters harvested from the Gulf of Mexico during warm months.”

It’s also wise to avoid swimming in salt water if you’re suffering from an open cut or sore. If an open wound does come into contact with brackish water (or raw seafood), wash it thoroughly with soap and water. If the wound becomes infected, it’s important to tell your health care provider about any exposure to salt water, raw seafood, or seafood juices.

What Are the Early Signs of Vibrio Infection?

Symptoms of a Vibrio infection usually occur within 24 hours of coming into contact with the bacteria. According to the CDC, early signs include:

  • Watery or bloody diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramping and abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Headache

If you contracted a V. vulnificus infection through an open wound, you may also develop a skin infection or bloodstream infection, known as primary septicemia. Symptoms include fever, chills, low blood pressure, skin lesions, and blistering. Open-wound exposure can also lead to swelling, redness, and pain near the infection site.

Bloodstream infections are more common in patients who are immunocompromised, such as those with chronic liver disease. In severe cases such as these, septic shock kicks in, increasing the likelihood of death.

If you’re suffering from a condition that affects your immune system, it’s a good idea to avoid brackish or salt water. If you think a wound may have come into contact with salt water or raw seafood, wash the area carefully using soap and water. Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you develop one or more of the above symptoms following exposure.

Vibrio Treatment Options

Patients with vulnificus infections will likely need antibiotics to fight off the Vibrio species. It is imperative to seek prompt treatment; the longer treatment is delayed, the higher the mortality rate is likely to be.

The most effective treatments for this bacterial infection include doxycycline, tetracycline, third-generation cephalosporins, and imipenem. Unfortunately, this aggressive bacterium has become resistant to certain antibiotic profiles due to the widespread misuse of antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance to V. vulnificus has reached alarming levels in many countries, which renders current treatment methods for bacterial infections in jeopardy, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Patients may require aggressive supportive care to recover. In some cases, patients with wound infection require debridement to remove necrotic tissue and treatment for sepsis and potential organ failure. Other common complications that require treatment include hypotension, lactic acidosis, and coagulation disorders. In the most severe cases, patients may need surgery to amputate the affected limb and stop the Vibrio vulnificus infection from spreading.

Scientists are attempting to create an effective Vibrio vulnificus vaccine. In the meantime, developing efficient medical treatments and gaining a better understanding of the antibacterial resistance profile of V. vulnificus in certain countries is health priority number one.

what are the early signs of vibrio

Should You Be Worried About Mercury Poisoning from Fish?

Should you be worried about mercury poisoning from fish? If you have been cutting fish out of your diet because you are scared of mercury poisoning, the latest research might make you change your mind.

The most common type of mercury poisoning comes from eating fish, so it is no wonder that many people in the United States do not eat the recommended amount of fish and seafood because they are worried about mercury in fish. High levels of mercury can have a devastating effect on the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system.

The American Heart Association and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating fish at least twice weekly and at least 8 ounces total—but only 1 in 10 Americans follow these guidelines. The average person eats 3.5 ounces of fish per week, and the number drops to an average of 2 ounces during pregnancy.

Feeling worried is natural when you read about high levels of mercury in fish, but you do not want to miss out on the health benefits of eating fish and seafood. They are great sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. So, should you be worried about mercury poisoning from fish?

The Latest Research on Mercury Poisoning from Fish

If you have been cutting fish out of your diet because you are scared of mercury poisoning, the latest research might make you change your mind.

Mercury is an element that occurs naturally in the air. Unfortunately, human industrial activity, such as electricity produced by coal and the incineration of waste, releases elemental mercury, thereby raising the levels of mercury in the air.

From the air, mercury gets into oceans, rivers, and lakes, where some microorganisms transform it into methylmercury—this is how mercury ends up in fish and shellfish. The highest concentrations of methylmercury are generally found in large predators because they are at the top of the food chain and have a longer life. Fish also contains another element, selenium, which might hold the key to protecting the brain from mercury.

Selenium is an antioxidant mineral that plays a key role in brain health. According to Nicholas Ralston, Ph.D., a research scientist at the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center, the confusion about mercury and seafood comes from conflicting results from large studies on the effects of mercury on childhood brain development. A study from the Faroe Islands and another study from New Zealand found low incidences of harm from mercury exposure from seafood. Ralston spoke at the annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Boston in October 2016 and said that when researchers investigated further, they found the selenium link. Selenium acts as a mercury magnet—it attracts toxic substances and reduces their damage.

Fish does not just contain mercury—it is also a great source of selenium. Flounder, tuna, and wild Pacific salmon (including Chinook, Sockeye, and Coho) have much more selenium than they do mercury. Tilefish, king mackerel, swordfish, and shark, instead, have more mercury and less selenium. You’ll want to consume fish sources that are not processed to make sure you get more selenium than mercury.

Check this chart to see the levels of selenium vs. mercury in ocean fish.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women eat 8 to 12 ounces of lower mercury fish per week to foster fetal growth and child development, as well as the mother’s health.

Symptoms of Mercury Poisoning

The first signs of mercury poisoning include:

  • Anxiety and edginess
  • Mood disturbances and depression
  • Numbness
  • Memory lags
  • Tremors

As the amount of mercury in the body goes up, additional symptoms emerge, such as:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Metal taste in the mouth
  • Lack of coordination
  • Loss of feeling in the hands, face, or other areas
  • Changes in vision, hearing, or speech
  • Shortness of breath
  • Inability to walk or stand up straight

Which Fish Have the Most Mercury?

Large fish contain more mercury because they usually live longer and have more time to absorb higher levels of mercury in their bodies. The EPA recommends that you check local advisories to know the mercury content of fish in your area.

The list below shows general mercury levels of many common types of fish and how much of each type to eat, according to the National Resource Defense Council. You can also check the FDA list. The EPA, NRDC, and FDA might show slightly different results for the specific type of fish.

Low Mercury Fish

Eat two to three servings a week of the following fish. Experts advise pregnant and small children eat no more than 12 ounces or two servings.

Anchovies Whitefish Trout Haddock
Catfish Crab Croaker Hake
Clams Crawfish Flounder Herring
Scallop Shrimp Sole Squid
Mullet Salmon Oyster Sardine
Tilapia Whitefish Pollock

Fish with Modest Levels of Mercury

Eat six servings or fewer per month. We recommend that pregnant women and small children do not eat these, as high levels of mercury can damage an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system.

Bass Halibut
Skate Lobster
Cod Monkfish
Carp Snapper
Perch (freshwater) Mahi Mahi
Buffalo fish

High Mercury Fish

Eat three servings or less per month. We recommend that pregnant women, nursing mothers, and small children do not eat these.

  • Bluefish
  • Grouper
  • Sea Bass
  • Mackerel
  • Croaker
  • Sablefish
  • Perch (ocean)
  • Tuna (canned albacore, yellowfin)

Fish with the Highest Mercury

The FDA recommends that you avoid:

  • King mackerel
  • Marlin
  • Tilefish
  • Tuna (bigeye, ahi)
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Orange roughy

How Much Mercury Is Too Much?

Scientists do not know the specific level of mercury that leads to harmful effects. Swedish biologists discovered that a small portion of the population carries a genetic mutation that makes their cells absorb mercury much longer, and it’s postulated that those people may be at higher risk.

The EPA recommends consuming a daily maximum of 0.1 micrograms of mercury for each kilogram of your body weight. That means a 176-pound adult (the national average) should eat no more than 8 micrograms of mercury each day. In practical terms, it depends on the mercury concentration you eat, but to give you an idea, the average adult could eat 13 ounces of fresh salmon per day without risks. Just 0.14 ounces of swordfish, instead, would put you over the limit.

Keep in mind that calculations made by the FDA, EPA, and NRDC are constantly under revision because mercury concentrations are rapidly changing. The amount of fish you’ll be able to consume while staying within the limits will decrease over time.

The damage from mercury toxicity is often permanent. Call the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 if you think you or a loved one might have mercury poisoning.

The most common type of mercury poisoning comes from eating fish

The Best Animal Sources of Essential Amino Acids

Not all animal products contain the same amount of protein—and different cuts of the same meat contain different amounts of amino acids. Each tissue may have a different amino acid composition, determined by the specific function of the organ. So let’s find out what are the best animal sources of amino acids!

Without protein, we’d be a gelatinous mess. Protein gives structure and strength to the muscles, tendons, tissues, and organs in our bodies. This powerful macronutrient helps produce enzymes, chemicals, and hormones the body requires for virtually all biological processes. We need protein, and the building blocks that make them, to survive and thrive.

Animal products are considered the best sources of protein because they contain all nine of the building blocks of protein…the famous essential amino acids:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Amino acids make up proteins by linking together in a specific sequence and forming their signature protein. Protein sources that contain the nine amino acids in adequate proportions are called complete proteins, and they are the highest quality protein sources from dietary protein.

Not all animal products contain the same makeup of amino acids, and different cuts of the same meat contain different amounts of protein. Each tissue has a unique amino acid composition, determined by the specific function of the organ.

Way back in 1943, researchers analyzed the amino acid makeup of protein in 10 muscle meats:

  1. Beef
  2. Veal
  3. Lamb
  4. Pork
  5. Chicken
  6. Turtle
  7. Codfish
  8. Salmon
  9. Frog legs
  10. Shrimp

And six beef organ tissues:

  1. Liver
  2. Kidney
  3. Brain
  4. Heart
  5. Stomach
  6. Lung

The results show that these various classes of animals do not differ widely in their amino acid composition—the only significant difference was found in the presence of lysine, an essential amino acid critical to immune system health. The organs had similar amino acid compositions to the muscle tissues, but with lower lysine contents.

The takeaway? It’s important to eat a varied diet of both animal- and plant-based protein to ensure adequate consumption of dietary amino acids. We’ll cover the differences between the two below, but first, let’s get clear on the best animal sources of amino acids, so you can be sure you’re providing your body with the protein it needs to live a strong and healthy life.

5 Best Animal Sources of Amino Acids

No matter what type of meat you eat—beef, chicken, or fish—it’s important to upgrade the quality in order to sustain the health gains. Processed meat like cold cuts, hot dogs, and sausage links that have been smoked, salted, cured, dried, or canned contain harmful chemicals and have been linked to chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, bowel and stomach cancers, and COPD.

When choosing from the animal sources of protein below, opt for pasture-raised and grass-fed meats and animal byproducts to make sure you’re getting all of protein’s health benefits. When it comes to fishing, it depends on the fish: some fish are healthier sourced as wild-caught, while farm-raised fish can occasionally be a better choice.

1. Beef

Beef is a top-notch protein source, but the nutritional quality and quantity of saturated fats and amino acids depends on the cut and how the animals are raised. Steer clear of industrially raised livestock in favor of grass-fed animal sources.

The different parts of the cow also have different flavors; some are more tender and flavorful, while others are quite tough.

Round and back leg are the leanest cuts of beef, and they are perfect grilled. Lean cuts of beef provide about 31 grams of protein in each 3-ounce serving. A good rule of thumb is that the fattier the cut, the lower the protein content per gram. Hindquarters pretty much match the protein and saturated fat content of lean cuts of beef, and can be delicious when marinated overnight for enhanced flavor. The lower loin is a good source of protein and lower in fat, but tough, so it depends on your palate.

The quality of a protein food source depends not only on the protein and essential amino acid content, but also on its digestibility. Different cuts of beef not only have differing amounts of protein, but they also differ in terms of digestibility. Digestibility determines how much of the protein in beef actually gets into the body. For example, the digestibility of ground beef is greater than that of flank steak.

2. Pork

Pork is another good source of protein, but certain cuts contain a significant amount of fat. Ham comes from the leanest cuts of pork in the hindquarters and the lower half of the pig. There are 19 grams of protein and 2.2 grams of saturated fat in 85 grams of ham, while 85 grams of pork tenderloins contains 24 grams of protein and 1.3 grams of saturated fat.

3. Eggs

Just one egg has about 6 grams of protein. Egg whites might not be the best part of the egg in terms of flavor, but they are the leanest protein source. A single egg white contains 3.6 grams of protein and no fat. Egg whites house nearly half of all the protein in an egg, plus magnesium, potassium, and riboflavin, while the yolks contain many essential vitamins.

4. White Meats

White meats such as chicken and turkey are particularly rich in essential amino acids and contain less fat and cholesterol than red meat does. A 3-ounce serving of chicken or turkey breast has about 28 grams of protein. Chicken breast is the leanest source of chicken, but turkey is a better alternative if you’re concerned about consuming too much saturated fat—for every 85 grams of roasted turkey breast you’re getting 26 grams of protein and a saturated fat content less than 0.5 grams.

5. Shellfish and Fish

Shrimp and scallops contain all the essential amino acids. Eighty-five grams of shrimp provides 20 grams of protein and zero saturated fat, and 85 grams of steamed scallops contains 17 grams of protein and only 0.2 grams of saturated fat.

Fish is also an excellent amino acid-rich animal food. A 3-ounce serving of halibut, tuna, or salmon provides about 22 protein grams. Coldwater fish like rainbow trout contains amino acids and is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, making it a win for your health. Eighty-five grams of this fish baked offers up 20 grams of protein with a saturated fat content of 1.3 grams.

How many grams of protein are in our favorite meats?

What About Plant Protein?

While animal protein certainly wins the gold star in amino acid makeup, we shouldn’t limit our protein consumption to animal sources. Red meat supplies a hearty helping of amino acids, but should be eaten sparingly due to its equally high supply of fat and cholesterol, which has been linked to diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. The same can be said about dairy products, which are also high-protein sources. Aim to eat no more than 1 to 2 servings of dairy per day.

Filling your plate with low-fat, high-quality protein from plant sources such as legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains, lowers your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes and ensures you get all the essential amino acids your body needs.

How Much Protein Do I Need to Eat?

The amount of protein that we need depends on our weight. Per kilogram of body weight for an adult, the recommended protein intake is 0.8 grams daily, or a little over 7 grams for every 20 pounds.

  • A 110-pound person needs a minimum of about 40 grams of protein each day.
  • A 210-pound person needs a minimum of about 74 grams of protein each day.

It’s important to consider that these are the minimum targets for protein, and don’t reflect your individual weight, health, or fitness goals. If you are looking to build muscle mass for instance, your daily protein needs are substantially greater, and can easily be boosted with a protein powder supplement. Likewise, if you’re recovering from illness, injury, or surgery eating enough protein can be tricky and made easier with an amino acid powder blend.

If you’re looking to increase your protein intake without taking in unnecessary calories from the carbohydrates and fats found in dietary protein such as animal and plant foods, check out our amino acid blends scientifically formulated for health benefits like weight loss, weight gain, heart health, liver health, muscle growth and more!