Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid, which means our bodies can make all the taurine it needs on its own. But eating foods high in taurine can also ensure you're getting enough of this important amino acid for optimal health.
There are many natural taurine sources available in meat and other animal products. Most adults make taurine on their own, but some populations, such as infants, require a taurine-rich diet.
What Is Taurine?
Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that your body can produce from the breakdown of another amino acid called cysteine, per a May 2021 article in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
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It's mainly found in muscles throughout the body, which explains why the foods highest in taurine are animal proteins.
Babies and children need to get taurine through breastmilk, infant formula or food but by adulthood, you produce enough on your own, per the University of Rochester Medical Center. According to a February 2020 article in Amino Acids, taurine plays a role in supporting your:
- immune system
How Much Taurine Do You Need Each Day?
Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid, so there's no recommended daily allowance. Supplementing with taurine up to 3,000 mg per day appears to be safe, per an April 2008 review in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. This amount would be difficult to get through food alone and more likely acquired through energy drinks or supplements.
Foods High in Taurine
There's no requirement to list taurine content on food labels. Here are some of the highest sources of taurine, per a June 2009 review in Atherosclerosis.
One 3-ounce cut of broiled beef provides 33 milligrams of taurine. Eating red meat in moderation can provide protein, important B vitamins and zinc to your diet. Choose lean or extra-lean cuts of beef like top sirloin, bottom round roast, eye of round steak or top round roast to save on fat and calories, per the Mayo Clinic.
Dark meat is where it's at when it comes to taurine. A 4-ounce serving of roasted chicken thighs has 222 milligrams, while 4 ounces of boiled chicken breast has only 16 milligrams. Dark meat, like the the leg and thigh, may have more taurine, but they also have more saturated fat and calories.
If you choose dark meat for its juicy flavor but are concerned about the effects of too much saturated fat, try this fool-proof way to cook tender juicy chicken breasts in the oven.
Where the meat comes from matters in terms of taurine content. A 4-ounce serving of roasted turkey breast has only 12 milligrams of taurine while the dark meat from a turkey thigh has 334 milligrams.
Turkey doesn't have to be reserved for Thanksgiving only — try one of these healthy ground turkey recipes any night of the week.
4. Pork Loin
A 3-ounce serving of broiled pork loin has 48 milligrams of taurine. Pork loin is a good source of phosphorus, zinc and several B vitamins. One 3-ounce serving also has 70 percent of your daily value (DV) of selenium.
Selenium is a trace element essential for reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism and DNA synthesis, per the National Institutes of Health. Follow these steps to cook your pork tenderloin just like a chef.
One ounce of salami has 16 milligrams of taurine. Since salami is a processed meat high in sodium, you may want to find another way to get your daily dose of taurine. Just 2 ounces of processed meat daily is linked to an 18 percent increase in colon cancer risk, per an October 2015 report by the World Health Organization.
You'll get 23 milligrams of taurine in each 2-ounce serving of canned albacore tuna. Tuna is low in calories, high in protein and a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating two to three servings of omega-3 rich fish each week is recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but not everyone should be eating this fish as often.
Albacore tuna is larger, lives longer and has three times more mercury than skipjack tuna, which is used to make "chunk light tuna." If you enjoy eating albacore tuna, the FDA recommends only one serving per week along with no other fish that same week for children and people of child-bearing age.
Mussels, scallops, oysters and clams are some of the best sources of taurine. In just 6 raw mussels, you'll get 655 milligrams of taurine. Just be careful how you cook your shellfish to retain the most taurine you can.
When raw, shellfish have high amounts of taurine, but some of this amino acid can be broken down when cooked or processed. Taurine is water-soluble, so more will be lost when the shellfish is boiled or basted. Baking or frying keeps helps retain the taurine content, per an older August 2003 study in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition.
One cup of low-fat milk has 6 milligrams of taurine. As the product of an animal and not the meat itself, the taurine in milk is much less than meat, fish or seafood, per the January 2010 study in Atherosclerosis.
You should aim for 3 cups of dairy or dairy equivalents per day, according to the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One cup of low-fat milk has 23 percent DV of calcium and 15 percent DV for vitamin D, two nutrients that promote bone health and can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis, per the USDA.
9. Energy Drinks
Taurine is often added to energy drinks with the hope that it will improve cognitive and physical performance, although research has yet to prove that the amino acid can actually help with energy levels, per a December 2016 paper in Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. Of 49 different energy drinks tested, the average taurine content was 750 milligrams per 8 ounces serving.
The Health Benefits of Taurine
Because taurine is so abundant in muscles, its health benefits mostly affect skeletal muscles, the heart and the brain.
1. It Might Increase Exercise Endurance
Taurine plays an essential role in your muscle function by helping your muscles contract and release, according to a January 2015 study in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care.
Your muscles create movements and actions by contracting and releasing, so taurine plays an important role in the overall movement of your body.
Taurine may be helpful for endurance, but studies have had mixed results. Oxidative muscle fibers, which are used during endurance exercise and movements, contain the most taurine, per the May 2021 review in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Two grams of taurine daily for seven days improved oxygen use, workload and exercise time when compared to baseline in one study, but other studies have not shown significant effects, per the review.
2. It's Linked to Heart Health
The anti-inflammatory effects of taurine could benefit high blood pressure and, at high doses, taurine is linked to lower rates of coronary heart disease, per a September 2020 article in Nutrients.
Adults with heart failure were given 500 milligrams of taurine supplements three times a day for two weeks. During that time, they saw a significant reduction in cholesterol, triglyceride levels, LDL/HDL ratio and the inflammatory marker CRP, both before and after exercise, per a July 2017 study in Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease.
3. It's Linked to Supporting Brain Health
Taurine is linked to lower risks of degenerative disorders such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease, per a June 2019 article in Redox Biology.
Most research has been in cellular and animal studies, but as these brain disorders progressively and devastatingly limit a person's physical and cognitive function, research on taurine as a therapeutic agent is ongoing.
While your body can make its own taurine and it's available through a variety of foods, it's still possible to not get enough. Taurine deficiencies can have serious effects and lead to heart disease, kidney dysfunction, developmental problems and severe damage to the retina, per a November 2012 study in Molecular Vision.
Being a conditionally essential amino acid, deficiencies are rare in adults without medical conditions. Certain situations and conditions can increase the risk of a taurine deficiency, per the December 2016 study in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, such as:
- Long-term parenteral (IV) nutrition
- Infants who are not breastfed and provided infant formula without taurine added
- Chronic diseases of the kidney, heart, liver, bone or stomach conditions, which lead to decreased absorption
Do Vegans Need Taurine?
Taurine is only found naturally in animal products and there aren't any vegan foods high in taurine, so you may be wondering if you need a supplement if you're vegan or vegetarian.
Fortunately, adults are able to produce taurine themselves, so deficiencies are rare. If your baby or child is on a vegan diet, it may be necessary to supplement with taurine through foods or formulas fortified with it, per the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Foods High in Taurine for Cats and Dogs
While we can make our own taurine if we're not getting it from food, cats are unable to make this amino acid on their own. In cats, taurine deficiency can lead to vision loss, poor growth and development and heart problems, per Pet MD.
While dogs can make their own taurine, some breeds may not make enough and need extra through their food, according to Pet MD.
Check that the food you're providing your pets contains taurine or make sure to supplement with foods high in taurine. Freeze-dried or cooked meats, fish or shellfish treats can be great options.
- Molecular Vision: "Review: Taurine: A “very essential” amino acid"
- Clevland Clinic Journal of Medicine: "Taurine, energy drinks, and neuroendocrine effects"
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition:"Taurine in sports and exercise"
- University of Rochester Medical Center: "Taurine"
- Amino Acids: "Important roles of dietary taurine, creatine, carnosine, anserine and 4-hydroxyproline in human nutrition and health"
- Redox Biology: "Taurine and its analogs in neurological disorders: Focus on therapeutic potential and molecular mechanisms"
- Nutrients: "The Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Taurine on Cardiovascular Disease"
- Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease: "Taurine supplementation has anti-atherogenic and anti-inflammatory effects before and after incremental exercise in heart failure"
- Mayo Clinic: "Cuts of beef: A guide to the leanest selections"
- National Institutes of Health: "Selenium"
- World Health Organization: "Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat"
- USDA: "Tuna (albacore)"
- FDA: "Questions & Answers from the FDA/EPA Advice about Eating Fish for Those Who Might Become or Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding and Children Ages 1 to 11 Years"
- Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition: "Taurine concentrations in animal feed ingredients; cooking influences taurine content"
- USDA: "Dairy"
- Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology: "Risk assessment for the amino acids taurine, L-glutamine and L-arginine"
- Pet MD: "What is taurine?"
- Pet MD: "Taurine for Dogs: Do Dogs Need Taurine Supplements?"
- Atherosclerosis: "The potential protective effects of taurine on coronary heart disease"
- USDA: "pork loin"