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How to Explain Amino Acids to Kids

by Tiffany Raiford

Your kids may not care what’s in their food or how healthy it is as long as it’s covered in chocolate and tastes like cake – or whatever it is they like. However, it’s never too early to educate your little ones on the importance of a healthy diet and what they put into their little bodies. Amino acids are an important part of your child’s health. Explaining to him exactly how the body uses and creates amino acids can educate him about health and provide an interesting lesson.

Talk to your child about protein. Explain to him that amino acids are produced by eating protein-rich food such as poultry, beef, fish, seeds, nuts, dairy products, legumes and eggs. When you eat protein-rich foods, your body breaks down the protein into amino acids. These amino acids are used to help the body maintain muscles, organs, bones and blood.

Use a necklace with beads as an example. The digestive juices in the stomach and intestines break down protein-rich foods into amino acids, which look like little beads, according to KidsHealth. These beads fuse together to create what looks like a necklace that then travels through the body providing it with the ability to repair tissue, to grow and to function in many other ways. Your body requires 22 different amino acids to function, despite the fact that there are more than 50 different amino acids. Your body can produce 13 of those 22 acids by itself, but you have to eat protein in order for your body to get the other nine. Those nine amino acids are referred to as essential amino acids.

Discuss the three different kinds of amino acids: essential, nonessential and conditional amino acids. Essential amino acids are the ones your body cannot make and the primary reason you eat protein. Nonessential amino acids are the acids your body can make by itself. Conditional amino acids are those that your body doesn’t regularly need but might need should you ever get sick. Conditional amino acids are obtained through food and required for people with certain illnesses.

Let your kids know that they cannot get all their proteins from one source. For example, if the only protein-rich foods your kid likes to eat are dairy products, it will not provide him with the necessary amino acids. He needs to eat a diet rich in all different kinds of protein so that he can maintain his health to the optimum degree.

Help your child learn to figure out how many grams of protein he needs on a daily basis. According to KidsHealth, a child's body needs about 0.5 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. For example, if your child weighs 80 pounds he can simply divide that by 2 or he can multiply 80 by 0.5, which would tell him he needs approximately 40 grams of protein every day.

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