Lysine is one of the 20 different components of proteins known as amino acids. Each one of these amino acids serves a different function, and they exist in different foods in varying amounts. If you wish to increase your lysine intake naturally, you have many food options available. The University of Maryland Medical Center lists the recommended daily dose of lysine for adults as 12 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. For a 120 pound person that equals a little more than 0.5 grams per day.
Researchers and consumers are interested in the benefits of individual amino acids. Lysine, for instance, is important in the production of carnitine, a nutrient that allows fatty acids to be converted into energy and helps lower cholesterol. According to Roberto Civitelli M.D., Washington University School of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Bone and Mineral Diseases, it plays an important role in reducing the risk of osteoporosis due to its interaction with calcium. It can help the body absorb calcium more efficiently, reduce calcium loses in urine and reduce the bone loss that leads to this disease. Other studies dating to 1978 show that increased lysine intake can prevent outbreaks of cold sores and genital herpes and can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.
Your best bet to find lysine is in meat products, in a serving size of 3.5 ounces. Pork is a good choice; a serving of cooked bacon contains 3 grams of lysine, and an equal portion of lean pork chops delivers 2.5 grams. Ground beef contains a significant amount as well, with 2 grams per portion. Should you wish for a leaner option, poultry is packed with lysine, too. Roasted chicken breast will give you 2.5 grams, and roasted turkey breast has 2 grams. Canned tuna in water and wild Atlantic salmon each contain 2 grams of lysine per serving.
For the most part, products that come from animals contain lysine, so dairy and eggs are good sources. Parmesan cheese contains 3 grams per 3.5-ounce serving and cheddar 2 grams. Two large eggs make up a 3.5-ounce serving and deliver 1 gram of lysine. Skim milk contains 0.25 grams of lysine per 3.5 ounces, and plain non-fat yogurt delivers about double that, 0.5 grams.
Meeting your protein needs on a vegan diet can be challenging. While foods such as nuts typically are eaten in small portions, the following measurements are based on a 3.5-ounce serving. Peanuts have about 1 gram, sunflower seeds and walnuts have about 0.75 grams. Beans and legumes also contain notable amounts of lysine. Note that peanuts do contain high levels of arginine, which should be avoided if suffering from cold sores. Cooked lentils and black beans contain over 0.5 grams and green peas have a little less than 0.5 grams.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Lysine
- Nutrition: The Science of Eating; Francis Sizer and Ellie Whitney
- Nutrition: Dietary L-Lysine and Calcium Metabolism in Humans; Roberto Civitelli, et al.