Who could have thought something 3.5 billion years old could best many food sources in their nutritional content? Did you know spirulina contains up to 70% protein?
With 4g of this nutrient per 7g serving, spirulina is one of the best plant sources when it comes to proteins. You may be wondering, “with so much protein, do I need amino acids?”
Amino acids aren’t only crucial for protein synthesis. They also help with the formation of other nitrogen-rich compounds like peptide hormones, creatine, and neurotransmitters. Besides, 4g of protein isn’t enough for daily requirements.
Now, are amino acids in spirulina adequate for your needs? How many amino acids are in spirulina?
Boasting about 18 amino acids, spirulina is one of the richest sources of both essential and non-essential protein synthesizers. It abounds in leucine, tyrosine, and lysine, among others.
Do you want to know how much of each essential amino acid you’re getting from this superfood? Dive in for that and more.
What Are Amino Acids?
These acids are the fundamental building elements for protein production. The amino acid makeup comprises several constituents bound together, including
- A hydrogen atom
- Unique side chain
- A core carbon atom
- An amine group (NH2)
- A carboxyl group (COOH)
There are 300+ amino acids, though the human body uses only 20 to make proteins. Proteins are vital for maintaining good health and have several functions in the body.
Amino acids are crucial for a host of benefits, including
- Muscle formation
- Helping skin health
- Boosting energy levels
- Supporting weight loss
- Helping with hair health
- Improving joint function
- Helping mood regulation
- Improving cognitive function
- Helping with digestive health
- Supporting healing and protecting the body from damage
What is a ‘Complete Source of Protein’?
A complete/perfect protein source is a food or supplement that provides all the critical amino acids responsible for muscle regeneration and repair. It’s important to choose a source of protein that is high in quality since not all proteins are equal.
Some of the best sources of complete protein include animal sources like meat, poultry, and fish. Examples of plant-based sources are soy products like miso, tempeh, and tofu.
Different Types of Amino Acids
Of the many amino acids, your body uses 20 of the 23 proteinogenic (those involved in protein synthesis) amino acids. The list of amino acids produced and required in your diet includes
- Aspatice acid
- Glutamic acid
Amino acids fall into various groups one of which is conditional. Conditional ones are those your body requires only during dire cases like stress and ailments. These include
Besides these occasional necessities, the primary amino acid groups are essential and non-essential. Despite the implication, both are vital for your body. The only difference is their source.
Understanding Non-Essential and Essential Amino Acids
Protein synthesizing acids vary based on your ability to make them.
Non-essential amino acids (there are 11) are those that your body generates. They are unnecessary because the body can manufacture them in ample amounts. Consequently, they don’t require obtaining from dietary sources.
However, there are incidences when the body can overproduce or under-synthesize these amino acids. An example is glycine encephalopathy in which a person makes more than the needed amounts of this amino acid.
On the other hand, essential ones (nine) are those that you can’t synthesize. So, you must get them from foods like quinoa, mushroom, eggs, poultry, and supplements like spirulina.
Now that you understand the difference between the essential and non-essential, where does each amino acid fall? Check out the summary table below.
Is It Worth Taking Essential Amino Acids?
There are many non-essential amino protein synthesizers that do other several tasks. Some double as conditional ones in times of need. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to incorporate essential amino acids to ensure optimal bodily functions.
Each essential amino acid serves a purpose, and a lack may present several challenges. Here’s why you need essential amino acids:
Methionine: It serves as a substrate for several molecules like S-adenosyl methionine and antioxidants like glutathione. Plus, it’s an amino acid substrate for taurine and cysteine.
Methionine can generate from homocysteine alongside cysteine. However, incorrect production may contribute to atherosclerosis.
Tryptophan: It’s a forerunner for the serotonin neurotransmitter, vitamin B3, and melatonin hormone. Fructose malabsorption interferes with this amino acid leading to its reduced presence in blood.
Lysine: Its amino group frequently participates in hydrogen bonds, salt bridges, and covalent linkages to produce a Schiff base. Hence, lysine can help stabilize proteins.
It also engages in histone modification to facilitate epigenetic regulation. Other biological processes depending on it include
- Breaking fatty acids
- Calcium regulation
- Development of structural proteins for connective tissue.
Histidine: It serves as the body’s precursor of histamine, an anti-inflammatory amine. Histidine ammonia-lyase breaks down histidine into urocanic acid and ammonia. A deficit in this enzyme causes the uncommon metabolic disease histidinemia.
Valine: It’s necessary to self-renewal hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). The amino acid helps muscle recovery, energy enhancement, and endurance boost.
Phenylalanine: It acts as an antecedent for tyrosine, nor-epinephrine, dopamine, melanin, and epinephrine. Those with phenylketonuria can’t metabolize it due to the absence of the enzyme hydroxylase.
Isoleucine: It boosts some hormonal releases, aids in wound healing, and detoxes nitrogenous waste, among other physiological roles.
Leucine: Acetoacetate and acetyl-CoA are the two main metabolic byproducts of its metabolism. Leucine is a building block for sterol synthesis in adipose and muscular tissue.
Threonine: It helps support brain activity and cell signal transduction.
Does Spirulina Have All Amino Acids?
Almost any food source contains amino acids, even if it’s in trace amounts.
Hence, for one to be a complete protein, a food needs all the amino acids to meet a certain percentage.
Now, does spirulina meet the required profile? Is spirulina a complete protein?
Let’s look at spirulina’s essential amino acid percentages to determine whether it meets the demands.
|Requirement for Complete Proteins (%)
|Amount in Spirulina (%)
So, yes; spirulina has all the necessary amino acids and is a complete plant protein. That status is no mean achievement for plants, as most whole proteins are often animal-based.
For this reason, spirulina is an excellent source vegetarians/vegans can tap into for their amino acid requirements. However, a typical serving of spirulina won’t be enough for your daily amino acid needs.
A 10g dose of the superfood supplies the following amounts of amino acids
|Daily Adult Requirement (mg/kg)
|Amount in 10g Spirulina Serving (%)
Therefore, you’d need to take 163g of spirulina to meet the daily requirements of all these amino acids, which is unrealistic. That makes spirulina only a supplement to other amino acid sources you should access in your diet.
Besides its amino acids nourishing and growing the body, this supplement has many benefits. Thanks to its excellent detox properties, many superfood seekers use spirulina for autism, anti-cancer benefits, and overall health boosting.
FAQS: Most Burning Questions about Spirulina’s Amino Acids
What Amino Acids Is Spirulina Missing?
While some are considerably low, there are no essential amino acids spirulina is missing. The plant is a complete protein. It also includes several non-essential amino acids.
Is Spirulina High in Lysine or Arginine?
Spirulina is high in lysine and arginine. Its lysine supply is marginally higher than arginine. A gram of the supplement contains 30mg of lysine and 18.4 mg (4.6g/cup) of arginine.
Numerous bodily processes depend on amino acids. They aid in protein production, a nutrient essential for generating energy, constructing muscle, repairing tissue, and producing hormones and enzymes.
They are necessary for appropriate vitamin and mineral absorption and aid in regulating metabolism. They are critical for regulating blood sugar levels, preserving good skin and hair, and offering an antioxidant defense.
Spirulina boasts a complete amino acid profile. It provides you with all the essential ones besides some non-essential acids.
Not to mention, it also abounds in other substances like vitamins. For instance, vitamin A supplies and zeaxanthin make spirulina for eyesight a popular application.
Spirulina features chlorophyll for
- Body detox
- Cancer prevention
- Intestinal cleaning
- Bad ordor reduction
- Anti-fungal properties,
- Immune system stimulation.
With such a rich profile, who would want to miss out on this superfood’s health benefits? Check out how to use spirulina for smoothies in our easy and tasty recipes.