The Real Deal on Amino Acids in a Plant-Based Diet

Luckily, all foods contain a little protein, and a large variety of plant-based foods provide many of the essential amino acids once believed to only exist within animal-based foods.

Essential amino acids are amino acids that are the building blocks of protein that our body can’t produce by itself. In other words, if we don’t eat them, we won’t get enough of them. But steak, beef, chicken, eggs, pork, and milk are not the only sources of essential amino acids; plants have plenty of them our bodies can use the same way.
Out of the 22 amino acids that exist, nine are essential and 11 are non-essential. Below are a list of the nine essential amino acids and plant-based foods that are good sources of each. 
Some sources of amino acids, like chia and hemp seeds, also offer all essential amino acids, making them a complete protein, though remember that all plant-based foods can form complete proteins within the body once ingested.

Here’s what each essential amino acid does and where to find it:

1. Leucine
2. Isoleucine
3. Lysine
4. Methionine
5. Phenylalanine
6. Threonine
7. Tryptophan
8. Valine
9. Histidine


Your body is able to produce most of the amino acids that it needs. The nine that it cannot produce are called "essential," as your diet is the only source of these amino acids.

Most foods that provide a good source of all essential amino acids called "complete proteins" are non-vegan, such as meat, poultry and fish. 

Despite this, an entirely plant-based diet with a variety of protein sources can easily provide adequate amounts of seven of the nine essential amino acids. 

Although most foods that you eat contain small amounts of all essential amino acids, the two that should be of concern if you follow a vegan diet are methionine and lysine.