Leucine: Food Sources & Health Benefits


Do you ever feel like missing out on the latest health trends? With so many superfoods and supplements on the market, it can be hard to keep up.

But what if I told you that one essential amino acid could be the key to unlocking your body’s full potential?

Let’s introduce Leucine, the superfood nutrient impressing the health community. This amino acid is necessary for the growth of muscles, the creation of energy, and other processes. It can be found in several foods, including meat, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Leucine, though, what precisely is it, and how might it help your health?

In this blog, we’ll explore the food sources and health benefits of Leucine, so you can know why this nutrient is a must to have in maintaining overall health. So fasten your seatbelts and get ready to learn about the power of Leucine!

What is Leucine?

What is Leucine
Source: Canva

Amino acids are the crucial regulators of protein synthesis, and Leucine is one of them. Leucine is one of the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and one of the nine essential amino acids (EAAs). It comprises approximately 40% of the free essential amino acids in blood plasma, along with valine and isoleucine. 

Although several isolated amino acids can stimulate protein synthesis, leucine has a potent effect. Leucine can also regulate cellular processes such as protein synthesis, tissue regeneration, and metabolism. Therefore, leucine supplementation has been studied in various conditions such as aging, muscle loss, protein or energy deprivation, obesity, and diabetes mellitus. 

Being an essential amino acid, our body can not synthesize it; hence has to be supplied externally. Some leucine-rich foods include beans, cottage cheese, sesame seeds, eggs, lentils, peanuts, spirulina, hemp, and pumpkin seeds. 

Leucine-Rich Foods

Leucine-Rich Foods
Source: Canva

ICMR has provided information regarding the Leucine content of various foods per 100 g. Here are some examples of the Leucine content in different foods.

1. Jowar: 12 g 

Sorghum, commonly known as jowar, is an excellent source of Leucine and other vital amino acids. As a complete protein source, Jowar contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a rich source of Leucine.

Jowar contains approximately 12g of Leucine per 100 grams of grain. This makes Jowar an excellent food for muscle growth and repair, energy production, and immune system function.

Additionally, Jowar has a low glycemic index and is low in fat, making it a smart choice for those trying to control their blood sugar levels or maintain good health.

2. Cow Milk: 10.6 g

Cow Milk is one of the richest sources of many essential nutrients, including Leucine. Cow Milk contains approximately 10.6g of Leucine per 100 grams. 

 Therefore, consuming cow milk or dairy products that contain cow milk can be beneficial for individuals looking to build muscle mass or support their overall health. Additionally, cow milk is an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients for maintaining strong bones and teeth.

3. Whole Egg: 7.9 g

Whole Eggs are another finest source of Leucine. Whole eggs are a complete protein source, containing all nine essential amino acids, including Leucine. One whole egg contains approximately 7.9 grams of Leucine.

Furthermore, whole eggs are a nutrient-rich food that contains good fats, vitamins, and minerals like vitamin D, choline, and selenium.

Additionally, whole eggs can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, such as boiled, scrambled, or as an ingredient in baked products, making them a simple and delicious option to increase your intake of Leucine.

4. Sardine: 8.2 g

Sardines are a type of small, oily fish that are not only tasty but also incredibly nutritious. They are an excellent source of many essential nutrients, including Leucine. It contains approximately 8.2 grams of Leucine per 100 grams, making it an excellent source for muscle growth and repair, energy production, and immune system function.

Additionally, sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to several health advantages, such as lowering inflammation and enhancing heart health. 

Also, Sardines are a safe and sustainable option for anyone wishing to add more seafood to their diet because they are low in mercury and other environmental toxins.

5. Dry Maize: 12.2 g

Also known as Dry Maize, Corn is a staple food in many parts of the world and a rich Leucine source. It contains approximately 12.2 grams of Leucine per 100 grams of corn. Thus maize intake can be an excellent addition to a diet aimed at building and maintaining muscle mass.

Additionally, dry maize is a nutrient-dense diet that helps improve general health because it is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, including iron and magnesium.

And the best part is maize can be consumed in various forms, such as cornmeal, popcorn, or tortillas, and is a versatile ingredient in many cuisines.

6. Ragi: 8.9 g

Finger Millet or Ragi is a nutritious grain that is a staple food in many parts of India and Africa. One of the many benefits of ragi is that it is a rich source of Leucine, an essential amino acid critical for muscle growth and repair. It contains approximately 8.9g of Ragi per 100 grams and is a valuable source for vegetarians or vegans.

Ragi is also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, and other vital amino acids. Ragi also has a low glycemic index, which makes it the ideal diet for people seeking to control their weight or diabetes, as it can help regulate blood sugar levels and encourage satiety. 

Additionally,  Ragi can be consumed in various forms, such as porridge, roti, or dosa, and is a versatile ingredient in many recipes.

7. Soybean: 8.1 g

Soyabean contains approximately 8.1 grams of Leucine per 100 grams of beans, making them one of the best available plant-based sources of Leucine. In addition to Leucine, soybeans are rich in other essential amino acids, fiber, and healthy fats and known for their health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.

Soybeans are an excellent food for general health and wellness since they are a rich supplier of vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium. 

Soybeans are versatile and can be consumed in many forms, such as tofu, soy milk, or edamame, and are an excellent addition to any plant-based diet. 

8. Black Chana: 8.8 g

Black Chickpeas, or Black Chana, are popular leucine-rich ingredients in many Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. 

Black chana contains approximately 8.8 grams of Leucine per 100 grams, making it essential for muscle and hair growth. Consuming black chana can improve blood sugar regulation and overall wellness and lower the risk of heart disease. 

And Black chana can be consumed in various forms, such as in curries or salads, and is a versatile ingredient in many dishes.

9. Spinach: 8.7 g

Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that is highly nutritious and packed with many essential vitamins and minerals, along with leucine. Spinach contains approximately 8.7 grams of Leucine per 100 grams, promoting overall health and wellness, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and certain types of cancer. 

It is an excellent food choice for those looking to increase their protein intake and add more nutrient-dense foods to their diet.

Spinach can be consumed in various forms, such as in salads or cooked dishes, or a variety of other recipes. 

10. Chicken breast: 7.9 g

Chicken breast is a popular source of leucine containing approximately 7.9 grams of Leucine per 100 grams supporting muscle growth and repair, improving bone health, and boosting the immune system. 

In addition to Leucine, chicken breast is a good source of other essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals such as niacin, vitamin B6, and phosphorus. It is an excellent choice for those looking to increase their protein intake and add more nutrient-dense foods to their diet.

Chicken breast can be cooked in many ways, such as grilled, baked, or sautéed. 

In addition to dietary sources, some studies claim that leucine supplementation also improves nutritional status, muscle function, and physical performance.

Benefits of Leucine

Benefits of Leucine
Source: Canva

Let’s discuss in detail how leucine benefits our body.

1. Promote muscle growth

Leucine is fondly called an anabolic amino acid due to its potential to promote muscle growth and act as an ergogenic agent. Leucine supplementation during exercise is responsible for muscle growth, strength, and performance. To examine the same, a study was conducted in 2019. Researchers observed that three grams of daily leucine supplementation for 45 days significantly enhanced gymgoers’ muscle growth and strength performance. 

2. Prevent muscle breakdown

There could be some days when you are off training for many reasons like taking a rest or a break, injury, or illness. During these recovery periods, no one would prefer losing the muscle mass that took months of hard work to build. Fortunately, leucine could help us out here. Nutritional research suggests that leucine can prevent muscle breakdown. In another study in the British Medical Journal, leucine amino acid was given for 12 weeks to the elderly in combination with moderate training. At the end of the study, investigators found that leucine counteracted the adverse effects of eccentric exercise and reduced exercise-induced strength loss.

3. Provide strength and endurance.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), particularly leucine, undergo increased oxidation during prolonged endurance exercises like running a marathon, indicating that raising the levels of leucine in the blood through supplementation could benefit endurance performance and skeletal muscle protein synthesis. For these reasons, one can not overlook the potential of BCAA supplementation to enhance endurance and strength exercise performance. 

4. Support immune health

T-cells play a critical part in providing immunity against foreign substances. Evidence suggests that leucine is vital for the immune response as it plays a role in T-cell activation. 

Improve blood sugar levels.

Leucine supplementation might also help people with diabetes manage their blood glucose levels. It supports glucose metabolism by exerting acute and chronic effects on pancreatic β-cells, releasing insulin hormone.

5. Brain function

Leucine also plays a role in brain function. It is a precursor to glutamate, an essential neurotransmitter for cognitive function and learning. Studies have shown that Leucine supplementation may improve memory and cognitive performance in older adults.

6. Wound healing

Leucine is essential for tissue repair and wound healing. It can help speed up the healing process by promoting new tissue growth.

7. Weight loss

Leucine can help promote weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness and satiety, reducing overall calorie intake. It can also aid in preserving muscle mass during weight loss, essential for maintaining metabolic rate.

How Much Leucine Do You Need?

How Much Leucine Do You Need
Source: Canva

The daily recommended intake of Leucine varies depending on age, gender, and activity level. However,  studies suggest that 10 g of leucine per day may offer performance-enhancing properties and support overall health. And it can be obtained through leucine-rich foods or taking a leucine supplement.

Potential Risks of Leucine

Potential Risks of Leucine
Source: Canva

While Leucine has many health benefits, it is essential to keep in mind that intake of Leucine in more significant amounts can have adverse effects on the body.

  • Increased risk of insulin resistance, especially when exposed to high levels of Leucine over a prolonged period.
  • Increased risk of kidney problems, especially in individuals with pre-existing kidney issues, due to the strain that Leucine can put on the kidneys.
  • Consuming large amounts of Leucine supplements can potentially lead to gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, bloating, and nausea.
  • It is essential to consume Leucine in moderation as part of a balanced diet to avoid potential risks and ensure optimal health.
  • It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements or making significant changes to your diet to avoid potential health risks.

Summing Up

Leucine: Food Sources & Health Benefits
Source: Canva

To sum up, we can say that leucine is an essential component of our daily protein requirements for general health. Although there is no recommended dosage of leucine as per the health authorities, studies suggest that 10 g of leucine per day may offer performance-enhancing properties and support overall health.

It is advisable not to take leucine in excess, say more than 30 g per day, to avoid side effects like gastrointestinal disturbances, a negative nitrogen balance, and low sugar levels.

What are the health benefits of leucine?

Leucine may help in healing skin and bones. It may increase muscle growth and lean body mass. It may increase production of human growth hormone (HGH). It may help control blood sugar.

What are the side effects of leucine?

Excess Leucine inhibits the body’s ability to produce these vitamins and later on it leads to deficiency diseases. Insulin Production under Diabetes Treatment: Consumption of Leucine with a source of glucose, increases insulin levels increase and decreases blood sugar level.

Can I take leucine everyday?

For most adults, the current recommendation for leucine is a minimum daily intake of 25 mg per pound (55 mg per kg) of body weight, or approximately 4.4 grams per day for a 175-pound (80-kg) person

Who needs leucine?

Leucine is an important amino acid essential for muscle-building. As one of the branch chain amino acids, Leucine is an important supplement to all bodybuilders. Like the other branch chain amino acids, Leucine is metabolized in our muscles directly rather than in the liver, making it far more bioavailable.

Is leucine good for the brain?

The brain must also provide neurons with a constant supply of glutamate, which both neurons and glia robustly oxidize. The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), particularly leucine, play an important role in this regard.

Does leucine help you sleep?

While GABA, tryptophan, and glycine may help with sleep, amino acids like leucine, isoleucine, and valine – the three branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs – can be quite effective as a fitness supplement because they help your body move faster, push harder, and recover more quickly

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