As we mature, we develop an understanding of the significance of not only the taste but also the nutritional value of the food we consume. Our bodies require fundamental fuels to execute various physiological processes, and therefore, we must be mindful of the type of food we eat.
Although we may typically aim for foods that offer an overall balance of necessary nutrients, this approach may not always ensure adequate levels of certain nutrients. For instance, brown rice is an excellent source of Methionine but lacks in Lysine. Hence, it is crucial to structure our diets based on particular food sources to avoid deficiencies and potential health risks.
To delve into this topic further, let us discuss Methionine, an essential amino acid that is often overlooked, particularly in vegan diets. We will explore its definition and the critical role it plays in promoting optimal bodily functions.
What is Methionine and Why Do You Need It In Your Diet?
Methionine is an essential amino acid that the body cannot produce on its own and must be obtained through diet. Out of the 9 essential amino acids, methionine also happens to be one of the toughest ones to obtain from a vegan diet. While largely found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, methionine is found in smaller quantities in plant-based foods including nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Methionine plays a vital role in various biological processes, including the synthesis of proteins, production of other amino acids and the formation of important molecules, such as antioxidants and neurotransmitters. It has a direct impact on keeping your liver healthy by preventing fat buildup and facilitating fat metabolization.
The most vital purpose of Methionine is that in acetaminophen poisoning, it prevents the breakdown products of acetaminophen from damaging your liver. Methionine also acts as an antioxidant, to help protect damaged tissues.
Some research-based reports have also suggested that Methionine can also help reduce radiation side effects, alcoholism, colon cancer, neural tube birth defects in women, and various other conditions as well. It is also believed to help protect from Parkinson’s disease, hot flashes, HSV & HPV, depression, liver dysfunction, allergies, asthma, Schizophrenia, etc.
Note: However, higher intakes of Methionine may be associated with an increased risk of negative health consequences, such as cardiovascular disease.
How Much Methionine Do You Need In A Day?
The RDA for Methionine, along with Cysteine (another essential amino acid) for adults is set at 14 mg/kg of body weight, each day. Therefore, it means that for someone weighing 70 kgs (154 lbs), the dose must be 1.1 grams per day.
While methionine is necessary for the body to function properly, it is also crucial to note that an overdose of methionine can lead to adverse effects. Here are some potential complications that may arise from methionine overdose –
- Gastrointestinal issues: Excessive methionine intake can cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Increased homocysteine levels: High levels of methionine intake can lead to an increase in homocysteine, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.
- Liver damage: Methionine overdose can cause liver damage and lead to the development of fatty liver disease.
- Kidney damage: Excessive methionine intake can also cause kidney damage and lead to the formation of kidney stones.
- Neurological issues: Excessive methionine overdose can cause headaches, dizziness, and seizures.
- Psychiatric symptoms: In rare cases, methionine overdose can lead to psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and hallucinations.
Interestingly, a research has shown that some vegetarians have higher blood concentrations of Methionine than in those who are meat-eaters, which implies that not all vegetarians necessarily require taking Methionine supplements.
Is a Vegan Diet Deficient in Methionine?
To answer that in all fairness, it is indeed a chore to obtain adequate amount of Methionine from a vegan diet, among a few other critical nutrients. That’s because most Methionine-rich food sources are animal-based and provide a high quality Methionine amino acid to maintain a balanced amino acid profile for the body. Although there’s no denying to the fact that there are certain plant-based vegan Methionine sources, the proportions may however vary widely as compared to animal-based sources.
To name a few good examples of Methionine-rich vegan foods, vital wheat gluten and oats top the list. EAAs are particularly important for vegan athletes and vegan bodybuilders. It is hence important for them to tailor their diets mindfully and include food options that ensure there’s no deficiency of critical nutrients in their diets.
Signs that may Indicate A Methionine Deficiency
Methionine deficiency is usually associated with an overall protein deficiency. Some of the most common yet significant symptoms of Methionine deficiency include:
- Excessive hair loss
- Poor skin tone
- Toxic elevation of metabolic waste products
- Hepatic dysfunction
- Neural tube defects in pregnant women
Some symptoms of Methionine toxicity include:
- Nausea and gastrointestinal irritation
- Reduced Growth
- Suppressed Hematocrit
- Occasional Hallucinations
The Best Vegan Methionine Sources
There are many vegan-friendly plant-based foods that offer moderately high amount of Methionine per serving. Some of the best vegan foods containing Methionine are vital wheat gluten, spinach, Brazil nuts, hemp seeds sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, oats, pumpkin seeds, among others.
Therefore, let’s look at the Methionine per 100 calories and per serving table below, to understand which food has the highest amount of Methionine and which of them scores the least. Through this table, it should be easier to know which one to opt for in your regular diet full of Methionine.
|Food||Serving||Energy (KCAL)||Methionine (G)||Methionine (G) Per 100 Calories|
|Vital wheat gluten (1)||100 g||370||0.98||0.26|
|Brazil nut||0.5 cup||438||0.75||0.17|
|Pumpkin seeds||1 cup||285||0.27||0.09|
|Sesame seeds||0.5 cup||413||0.42||0.10|
|Hemp seeds (2)||3 tbsp||166||0.28||0.17|
|Kidney beans||1 cup||225||0.23||0.10|
|Black beans||1 cup||227||0.23||0.10|
|Chickpeas (3)||1 cup||269||0.19||0.07|
|Quinoa (4)||1 cup||222||0.18||0.08|
|Peas (5)||1 cup||117||0.12||0.10|
(2) – Hemp Protein Amino Acid Profile
(3) – Chickpeas Amino Acid Profile
(4) – Quinoa Amino Acid Profile
(5) – Pea Protein Amino Acid Profile
Hence, this abovementioned chart makes it quite clear that the best sources of Methionine are vital gluten, nuts/seeds, grain. Although beans score towards the bottom of the list, one can obtain a decent amount of Methionine from them. So, you can easily mix and match these foods with other items in your diet, and prepare a delicious yet healthy nutrition-packed meal for yourself.
To conclude, while methionine is an essential amino acid that is predominantly found in animal-based products, there are several plant-based sources that can provide adequate amounts of this nutrient for vegans. By incorporating a variety of vegan foods such as legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, and soy products into your diet, you can ensure that you are meeting your daily methionine requirements.
It is important to note that a well-planned and balanced vegan diet can provide all the necessary nutrients for optimal health and wellbeing, including essential amino acids like methionine. By choosing a plant-based lifestyle, not only can you enjoy the benefits of a nutritious and wholesome diet, but you can also contribute towards a more sustainable and compassionate world.