Lysine is one of 22 amino acids, or the “building blocks” of proteins (as you may remember from your science class). It is also one of nine essential amino acids that you must get through your diet because your body cannot produce its own.
Lysine serves several purposes in the body, one of which is to produce carnitine – which helps deliver fat to the mitochondria in your cells to turn it into sweet, sweet energy.
It also has several other potential benefits, such as:
- Anxiety reduction. According to a 2007 study, lysine can also block receptors in your nervous system that are related to stress and lower your circulating levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Calcium regulation. A 1
- Collagen production. According to a study from 2012, lysine is necessary for collagen production. Collagen forms a matrix for cushioning and supporting soft tissues such as joints and skin. It’s also found in your bones.
- Less frequent cold sores. Maybe that’s a big deal. A small study from 1984 showed that lysine blocks the activity of another amino acid, arginine, that the herpes simplex virus needs to replicate and cause cold sores. A research report largely debunked this idea, but there is a possibility that lysine may reduce the frequency of outbreaks.
Because of all of the important roles lysine plays, fatigue, irritability, anemia, and even stunted growth are some signs that you may not get enough of them.
According to research from 2007, most adults need around 14 milligrams of lysine per pound (or 30 milligrams per kilogram) of body weight per day. For a 150 pound person, that’s roughly 2,100 milligrams of lysine a day. For a 200 pound person, that’s 2,800 milligrams of lysine a day.
What if i’m vegan?
If you are a vegan your lysine needs are similar. It can be difficult to find vegan sources of lysine because lysine is mainly found in animal foods.
But it’s not impossible and there are still plenty of options on the vegan lysine scene. If you are normally getting enough protein every day, it is unlikely that you are lysine deficient.
What about arginine?
Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid with numerous health benefits (think cardiovascular health, prevent infections, and treat erectile dysfunction). People looking to consume more lysine may want to adjust their arginine consumption plans as these nutrients compete with each other when absorbed by your body. (Don’t worry – we’re listing foods rich in arginine below.) Just consume these amino acids at different times of the day and you won’t have a problem.
Plain, low-fat yogurt, like most other yogurts, is an excellent source of lysine. And while it’s high in lysine, it’s also low in arginine, making it ideal for minimizing your arginine intake while getting a calcium boost.
Lysine per 1 cup (245 grams): 1,150 milligram
2. White beans
White beans are a great source of vegan protein and are high in lysine. These beans are super creamy with a mild taste that works well in most recipes.
Lysine per 1 cup (182 grams) cooked: 946 milligram
OK, salmon is already known as a mega-healthy food because it’s full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. But it’s also loaded with lysine, which is worth almost a day to a 150-pound person.
Lysine per 3 ounces (85 grams) cooked: 1,790 milligram
Chicken could be called a well of lysine, and as a lean protein, it’s pretty important in the health-conscious omnivore’s kitchen.
Lysine per 3 ounces (85 grams) cooked: 2,200 milligram
Parmesan is full of lysine and also contains a pretty favorable ratio of lysine to arginine. If you’re looking for a lysine boost then sprinkle that cheesy pixie dust on everything you (really) eat.
Lysine per 1 tablespoon (5 grams), grated: 110 milligram
Tempeh is a vegan protein made from fermented soybeans. You can use it the way you would use tofu. One warning: it contains more arginine than lysine. Hence, you should avoid it when trying to limit your arginine intake.
Lysine per 1 cup (166 grams): 1,510 milligram
Quinoa is a chewy, nutritious alternative to rice and a great source of protein for vegans. Unfortunately, it also contains more arginine than lysine, so it’s not a great choice for those trying to limit arginine.
Lysine per 1 cup (185 grams), cooked: 442 milligram
8. I am milk
Soy milk? ‘Cause it got you baby It can add a lysine boost to your vegan or dairy-free diet pretty easily. Note: it contains a little more arginine than lysine. So if lysine is a priority, save this drink for later.
Lysine per 1 cup (240 milliliters): 318 milligram
According to a 2009 study, seitan or vital wheat gluten can be used as a vegan protein source. But if you are on a gluten-free diet, be sure to make it clear: it’s literally 100 percent gluten (and some water).
Lysine per 3 ounces (85 grams): 656 milligram
Like their bigger cousin salmon, tiny little sardines are full of protein, omega-3s, and – you guessed it – lysine! Their lysine levels are almost twice their arginine levels, so they may work for you if you’re trying to limit arginine.
Lysine per 1 ounce (28 grams): 641 milligram
Turkey is another lean protein. You’ve probably heard that it’s loaded with tryptophan, which is why it supposedly makes you sleepy on Thanksgiving (but we think it’s probably the 15 pages we have with the turkey). It has a lot of lysine too!
Lysine per 3 ounces (85 grams) cooked: 2,080 milligram
The humble lens. Inexpensive, quick to cook, tasty and rich in vegan protein. I’ll see you, lenses. You can probably afford to be a little less humble.
Lysine per 1 cup (198 grams) cooked: 1,250 milligram
13. Black beans
Like many other beans (some of which made this list), black beans are high in lysine. They’re a great vegan protein alternative and go well with almost anything.
Lysine per 1 cup (172 grams) cooked: 1,050 milligram
14. Goat milk
Cow’s milk-free, but not against dairy products? Try goat milk instead! It is high in lysine and quite low in arginine. You can also use goat’s milk cheese as an alternative to cow’s milk cheese (and we all know it makes fabulous soap).
Lysine per 1 cup (244 milliliters): 708 milligrams
15. Adzuki beans
Adzuki beans, or red mung beans, are widely used in Asian countries. They can be used in savory dishes like we’re used to, or in sweet dishes like the red bean paste pastry popular in the Pacific.
Lysine per 1 cup (230 grams) cooked: 1,300 milligrams