Q: I’ve heard wellness enthusiasts touting the benefits of liquid aminos. What are they, and is it worth adding them to my diet?
A: Liquid aminos have definitely become more popular in the last couple of years.
Like apple cider vinegar, Bragg makes the most popular product. Similar to tamari, bottled liquid aminos are a great gluten-free alternative to soy sauce. They have a similar salty, umami flavor that can punch up a stir-fry or salad.
What are they, though?
What Are Liquid Aminos?
They are simply amino acids derived from soybeans, plus water. (No additives or sneaky sugars, yay!) As a soy-free alternative, they can also be made by fermenting coconut sap with salt and water. These are called coconut aminos.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which helps build muscle, tame your appetite and bolster your immune system, among other things. Amino acids play important roles throughout your body, helping with things like muscle development and repair, nutrient absorption, and detoxification. There are two types of amino acids—essential and non-essential.
Your amazing body can produce the 11 non-essential ones, but you have to get the other 9 essential aminos through your diet. You’ve got to do this on a regular basis, too, since your body can’t store excess amino acids for future use.
So, where do these essential amino acids come from? You guessed it—protein. And this is where liquid aminos come in. When you’re not eating enough protein, liquid aminos help offset the deficit of essential amino acids in your body.
Here’s the catch: The popular brands of liquid aminos only contain 16 or 17 amino acids, both essential and non-essential, so you can’t rely on them solely for your daily amino acid requirements (nor should you!). As we always say, nothing is a substitute for eating a nutrient dense and varied diet for optimal health.
Liquid Aminos’ Health Benefits
So, what are the benefits of liquid aminos and who should supplement with them? Read on to find out.
1. Liquid aminos can fortify the diet of vegans and vegetarians.
Liquid aminos are often recommended to vegans and vegetarians, since it can be harder to get all of the essential amino acids from a diet that doesn’t include animal proteins like meat, eggs and poultry. Still, it is possible by eating a variety of plant-based sources of protein. These can include nuts (and nut butters), seeds, grains and legumes. Plant-based meat substitutes like tofu and tempeh are also great sources of protein for those avoiding meat.
Whether by supplementing with liquid aminos or eating plant-based proteins, it’s important for vegans and vegetarians to get enough complete proteins, which contain all the amino acids our bodies need to maintain metabolism and function properly.
2. Liquid aminos improve athletic performance.
Athletes who are trying to improve their exercise performance and cut down on the breakdown of muscle during an intense workout can benefit from supplementing with liquid aminos. Some studies have shown potential training benefits such as increased energy levels and quicker recovery time.
In one small study, liquid amino supplementation helped athletes who were restricting calories while exercising maintain their lean body mass. The research is far from conclusive, though, and athletes often choose powdered supplements over liquid aminos.
3. Liquid aminos are free of gluten, MSG and chemical preservatives.
Liquid aminos are naturally gluten-free. For the roughly 5% of the population with celiac disease or those with a gluten intolerance, liquid aminos can be really useful dietary supplements, especially in place of soy sauce, which contains gluten. People who are sensitive to monosodium glutamate (MSG) additives in food can also use liquid or coconut aminos, which are free of MSG. Anyone who is sensitive or allergic to sodium benzoate, a food preservative typically used to increase shelf life, can safely add liquid aminos rather than soy sauce to their stir-fry.
How to Use Liquid Aminos
Liquid aminos can be substituted for salt in many recipes that call for that umami kick. They can be stored in a cool, dark pantry for 3-6 months after opening. Here are some creative ways to include liquid aminos into your diet:
- As a soy sauce replacement in stir-fries or noodle dishes
- Mixed with dijon mustard as a marinade for roasted veggies
- As a dipping sauce for sushi
- In marinades for meat, tofu or tempeh
- In salad dressings and dips
- As a seasoning for fried rice or riced cauliflower
The Bottom Line
I’d recommend stocking liquid aminos in your pantry to use once in a while as a healthy flavor enhancer, especially if you don’t eat meat. Don’t start drinking from the bottle, though, especially since the salt content is very high.
The Nutritious Life Editors are a team of healthy lifestyle enthusiasts who not only subscribe to — and live! — the 8 Pillars of a Nutritious Life, but also have access to some of the savviest thought leaders in the health and wellness space — including our founder and resident dietitian, Keri Glassman. From the hottest trends in wellness to the latest medical science, we stay on top of it all in order to deliver the info YOU need to live your most nutritious life.
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