Amino acids ….the building blocks -

  • Proteins are made up of amino acids [AA].
  • They are like building blocks of proteins.
  • There are 21 different amino acids that join together  with peptide bonds to make all types of protein


Number of amino acids

Referred as


Free AA





4 -9


10 or more



  • Amino acids are usually categorised into three groups depending on whether they can be made in the body.
  1. Nine amino acids cannot be made by the body and must be obtained from our food.  These are called “indispensable or essential” amino acids.
  2. Seven amino acids are called “conditionally indispensable” because we have a limited ability to make them, especially infants and children.
  3. Five amino acids made by the body and  are called “dispensable or non-essential”.

This is an overview of all indispensable, conditionally indispensable and dispensable amino acids -

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  • WHO Technical Report Series. Protein and amino acid requirement in human nutrition: report of a joint FAO/WHO/UNU Expert Consultation (WHO Technical Report series # 935)


  • The World Health Organization defines seven amino acids as conditionally indispensable for humans in general


Sources of protein …

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Not just quantity but quality of protein matters…

Foods differ not only in the amount of protein they contain, but also in their protein quality

High-quality or complete protein

Low-quality or incomplete protein

Contains sufficient amount of all essential amino acids in the right quantity and proportions

Lacks or contains inadequate amounts of one or more of the essential amino acids

Supports protein deposition in muscles and other tissues, and young children’s growth

Is not sufficient for supporting growth and health

Well digested and absorbed by the body

The human digestive tract does not digest very efficiently

Example: Animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs and cheese

Example : Plant – based foods such as legumes  and pulses

Understanding the concept of protein quality is important. Regardless of how much protein is eaten, a child will fail to grow properly if his or her diet lacks essential amino acids.


Protein containing all the essential amino acids in right quantity must be consumed every day for optimum health; as unlike fats, it cannot be stored in the body


  • The Science of Nutrition by Janice L Thompson ; 2nd Edition ;2011 : Pg. 219
  • Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian diets. JADA, 2003; 103(6) 748 – 765.

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