Lysine is one of the most essential nutrients for human body. Without it, your life would not be possible. Lately, there are many studies showing that lysine supplementation may have benefits in preventing and treating various diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). However, despite its importance in our bodies, the exact amount of lysine required to prevent or treat certain conditions varies from person to person depending on their genetic makeup.
The following table lists the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of lysine for different age groups.
Age Group RDA Age 0–6 months 1 year 6–12 years 2 years 12–18 years 3 years 18+ years 4 grams
In general, the higher the level of lysine intake, the greater the health benefit will be. However, some individuals do not respond well to high levels of lysine and need lower amounts than others.
For example, if you are suffering from asthma symptoms or allergies then you should consume less than 1 gram per day. If you’re someone who doesn’t consume much of the nutrient, you may be able to increase your consumption to 3 grams per day without side effects.
It is important to remember that not everyone has the same needs when it comes to lysine. Some people need more while others need less.
It is always best to check with your doctor or a dietician to make sure you are getting the right amount of lysine for your diet plan.
Here are some foods which contain high levels of lysine:
Poultry and meat including beef, lamb, mutton, fish, pork and chicken (especially turkey and goose)
Cheese and milk (especially cottage cheese)
Eggs (especially egg whites)
Seafood like shrimps, prawns, crab and oysters
Seeds (especially pumpkin and squash seeds)
Nuts (especially brazil nuts)
Most plants do not contain lysine, but the following ones do:
Peanuts and peanut butter
Grains like spelt and wheat germ
Most fruits and vegetables
As you can see, most of these foods have a high fat content, so if you’re following a low fat diet then you may need to limit your intake of these.
Most people in the world get enough lysine in their diet without having to worry about it. However, if you have a genetic condition that lowers your body’s ability to absorb nutrients (a condition known as intestinal malabsorption) or you have a disease that prevents you from eating normally then you may need to take lysine as a supplement.
Make sure to talk to your doctor before beginning any supplement regime.
Because lysine is an essential amino acid, your body cannot synthesize it and you must get it through your diet. Foods that contain the amino acid are most commonly found in meat and protein-rich foods such as dairy, fish, nuts and seeds.
Most fruits and vegetables do not contain lysine, but there are a few exceptions like beans, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and pistachios.
Seafood is one of the best sources of lysine and it is often used as the standard for measuring its presence in other foods. For example, grains like wheat or corn are measured against lysine levels found in seafood, with higher grain levels indicating a higher lysine content.
Meat, eggs, legumes and seeds all have high levels of lysine. Some vegetables like asparagus, artichokes and spinach also contain notable amounts of the amino acid.
As a rule of thumb, if a food is considered a protein-rich food, it’s also a good source of lysine. If you don’t eat meat for ethical or health reasons then try to find plant-based foods that are good sources of lysine.
High lysine foods are marked in the list below:
High Lysine Foods
Food Amount Protein % Lysine Chestnuts, dried 28g 21.4g 100% Macadamia Nuts 35g 17.9g 100% Pistachios 28g 21.5g 100% Hazelnuts or Filberts 23g 19.7g 100% Peanuts 28g 18.4g 100% Walnuts 14g 16.3g 100% Pumpkin Seeds 22g 19.6g 100% Sunflower Seeds 22g 18.5g 100% Rice Bran 30g 17.1g 100% Wheat Germ 30g 18.5g 100% Quinoa 28g 16.8g 100% Whey Protein (Unflavored) 70g 24.3g 100% Oats 42g 15.2g 100% Non-Fat Dry Milk 38g 19.1g 100% Whole Egg 1 Large 6.3g 100% Chicken Thighs 159g 22.7g 100% Lamb Chops 159g 20.4g 100% Beef Tenderloin 159g 21.3g 100% Fat Free Pork Bacon 70g 19.5g 100% Yogurt, non-fat 114g 15.4g 100% Fish, Cod 146g 22.0g 100%
Low Lysine Foods
Food Amount Protein % Lysine Rice, white 154g 8.4g 100% Pasta, white 160g 12.2g 100% Popcorn, popped 3 cups 18.4g 100% Tortilla, Corn 40g 7.7g 100% Bulgur, cooked 175g 9.0g 100% Long Grain Rice, cooked 177g 8.5g 100% Oatmeal, instant, plain 44g 10.4g 100% Bread, white, commercial 58g 9.9g 100% Bagel, white 70g 10.3g 100% Pizza, plain cheese pie 93g 15.3g 100% Pasta, Egg Fettuccine 156g 18.1g 100% Bagel, Whole Wheat 70g 11.3g 100% Bread, Whole Wheat 66g 11.9g 100% English Muffin 87g 16.4g 100% Quick Oats 53g 12.2g 100% Sweet Corn 30 ears 23.5g 100% Long Grain Rice, brown 185g 8.8g 100% Noodles, Egg, cooked 175g 13.2g 100% Bread, 7 Grain 70g 12.1g 100% Grits, instant, plain 114g 8.7g 100% Couscous, cooked 148g 10.0g 100% Bread, white 69g 12.2g 100% Pasta, Whole Wheat elbows 156g 18.5g 100%
I’ve highlighted the foods highest in lysine in red, so if you’re looking for a quick way to improve your lysine intake just go for those foods.
So, if you’re one of the many people who suffer from a lysine deficiency you can immediately start adding more high lysine foods to your diet. Alternatively, you can buy a lysine supplement.
Supplements often contain a bunch of unnecessary additives, so it’s probably better to just increase your intake of high lysine foods.
If you want to be ultra safe you could also increase your intake of foods with a medium lysine content, and you’ll probably get enough lysine from these to ward off any potential problems as well:
Food Amount Protein % Lysine Oatmeal, instant, plain 44g 10.4g 100% Bagel, Whole Wheat 70g 11.3g 100% Bread, Whole Wheat 66g 11.9g 100% English Muffin 87g 16.4g 100% Quick Oats 53g 12.2g 100% Sweet Corn 30 ears 23.5g 100% Noodles, Egg, cooked 175g 13.2g 100% Bread, 7 Grain 70g 12.1g 100% Grits, instant, plain 114g 8.7g 100% Couscous, cooked 148g 10.0g 100%
So, there you have it. It’s not too difficult to get enough lysine in your diet every day.
Just try to eat more high lysine foods or use a protein supplement and you’ll be fine!
If you have any questions about this topic, or anything else, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Thanks for reading!
Photo “Lysine” by Doug James via Flickr. Available under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.
Sources & references used in this article:
Is There Any Role for Lysine in Herpetic Keratitis? by M Moshirfar, S Somani, Y Ronquillo – Cornea, 2020 – journals.lww.com
Super Lysine Plus Cold Sore Ointment Review by HID Work, WI Work – coldsorescured.com
Special feature: Cold sores: Kiss cold sores goodbye by M Haggan – PS Post Script, 2015 – search.informit.com.au
10. Lysine by M Burhenne – askthedentist.com