The building blocks of protein are called amino acids. There are 20 different types of amino acids that the human body needs to function correctly. Eleven of these amino acids are produced naturally in the body, while the other nine need to be acquired by consuming food.
The amino acids that are made from chemicals already found within the human body are called non-essential amino acids. Amino acids that cannot be made naturally are called essential amino acids. The digestive system breaks down consumed protein into their amino acids so they can enter the blood stream. Once in the bloodstream, cells utilize the amino acids as building blocks to create various proteins.
While the majority of crops that are grown for human consumption contain some essential amino acids, soy products and animal sources of protein contain all the essential amino acids; these products include: eggs, milk, meat, poultry, fish and other seafood.
The proteins that are created from amino acids handle incredibly important life functions. Some proteins contribute to the structural elements of a cell, while others are used to bind cells into tissues. Proteins take the form of antibodies to protect from diseases and interferon to fight off viruses. If the human body does not acquire enough essential amino acids from food consumption to create the necessary proteins, the body is susceptible to many shortcomings. Potential problems from lack of amino acids includes: a weakened immune system, a decrease in hormone production and the breakdown of muscle tissues.