A molecule made up of two amino acids, alanine and histadine, carnosine is nonessential dipeptide primarily found in the muscles and brain of animals. In the body, carnosine acts as a type of antioxidant, protecting cells against damage from free radicals. Carnosine may be especially beneficial to people with diabetes by protecting against damage caused by protein glycation, which is a major contributor to diabetes-related complications such as kidney and nerve damage.
Carnosine is measured as a percentage of moist tissue, according to the authors of Food Chemistry, and beef contains 0.15 percent to 0.35 percent carnosine, or 0.13 gram to 0.3 gram per 3-ounce portion. While beef may be a good source of carnosine, it's also a source of unhealthy saturated fat. To get the benefits of the carnosine without the fat, choose lean cuts of beef such as eye round, top round or bottom round.
Fish With Carnosine
Fish are also a source of carnosine, although the amount varies depending on the type of fish. Yellowfin tuna, for example, contains 0.005 percent carnosine, or 0.009 gram per 6-ounce serving, while eel has 0.05 percent, or 0.09 gram per 6-ounce serving. Skipjack, swordfish and chum salmon also contain a small amount of carnosine. Fish is lean and a good source of protein, so it makes a healthy addition to your diet.
Carnosine in Chicken
Chicken is also a source of carnosine but is not as good a source as beef, with 0.01 percent to 0.1 percent in moist tissue, according to Food Chemistry, which is 0.01 gram to 0.1 gram per 4-ounce portion. When it comes to good health, you want to eat leaner cuts of chicken. Chicken breast makes a good choice and is even lower in fat than the leanest cuts of beef.
What About Vegetarians?
How much meat you eat affects your carnosine levels. According to a study published in 2007 in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, vegetarians have about 50 percent less carnosine in their muscle than meat eaters. However, while carnosine may offer some health benefits, more research is needed, and you shouldn't start piling your plate with steak, fish and chicken until all the evidence is in.