Best Vegetarian Food Sources of Lysine

Lysine is an important, essential amino acid. It plays a key role in producing carnitine — a nutrient that helps lower cholesterol, and convert fatty acids into energy — and collagen, a fibrous protein found in bones, cartilage, and other connective tissues, like the skin and tendons. Children need it to grow and develop.

Getting Enough From a Vegetarian Diet

Lysine is considered a limiting amino acid in many plant foods. This means that the food only contains a small amount. A good example of this is seitan, a high–protein meat substitute.

So, how much do you need? The RDA, or Recommended Daily Allowance, is 38mg/kg for all adults, 19 years of age and older. In other words, for every kilogram of your weight, you need 38mg. (Calculate kilograms by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2.) For children, it varies depending on age and sex. (For all the specifics for children, you can download the Dietary Reference Intakes Guide.)

Best Vegetarian Sources

Beans are your best source.

Black Beans (one cup) 1.046 grams
Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas) (one cup) .973 grams
Lentils (one cup) 1.247 grams
Kidney Beans (one cup) 1.053 grams

Soy products (including tempeh) are a good source, followed by wheat germ, cottage cheese, eggs, cheese (particularly parmesan), quinoa, pistachio nuts, cashews, spirulina, and yeast. Except for avocados, fruits and vegetables have tiny amounts.

Benefits for Osteoporosis and Herpes Simplex Virus

This essential amino acid also helps the body absorb calcium, and decreases the amount of calcium lost in urine. Because of this, some researchers think it may prevent bone loss due to osteoporosis. This is of key importance to older women, who are prone to this debilitating disease.

If you have Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), you might already be aware that it's well–known for its ability to slow the growth and reproduction of cold sores and herpes virus infections. Apparently, it blocks the activity of arginine, which promotes HSV reproduction.

The best way to ensure that you get enough of all the essential amino acids is to have a lot of variety in your diet.


Eric R. Braverman, M.D., The Healing Nutrients Within, (CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc. 2003) University of Maryland Medical Center

Jennifer J. Otten, Jennifer Pitzi Hellwig, Linda D. Meyers, Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements, National Academies Press

University of Maryland Medical Center

Jack Norris, RD, Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, Vegan for Life, Everything you Need to Know to be Healthy and Fit on a Plant–Based Diet

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