Foods Containing L-Carnitine

closeup of a steak
Steaks on a grill (Image: Kesu01/iStock/Getty Images)

Carnitine aids in energy metabolism and removes toxic compounds from cells. Most healthy people synthesize all the carnitine they need from the amino acids methionine and lysine, but some medical conditions and drugs may lower the concentration in your body. Most animal-based foods are good sources of L-carnitine, the biologically active form of carnitine. If you are a vegan or you're concerned about your level of carnitine, talk to your doctor.

Go for Lean Beef

Beef is one of the richest natural sources of carnitine, with a 3-ounce serving of steak supplying approximately 81 milligrams of the compound and ground beef containing about 80 milligrams. To limit your intake of fat and cholesterol, choose lean cuts that have 95 milligrams or less of cholesterol, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and fewer than 10 grams of total fat in every 3-ounce serving. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends consuming no more than 3 ounces of red meat like beef per week.

Pick Low-Fat Pork

On average, cooked pork contains 24 milligrams of L-carnitine in every 3 ounces. Choose low-fat pork that conforms to the same lean meat guidelines as beef. Good choices include tenderloin, sirloin roast, boneless top loin chops or roast, rib chops or center loin chops. Avoid breaded or fried pork in favor of cuts that are roasted, broiled, grilled or braised. Pork is considered a red meat. A diet high in red meat increases your risk of chronic medical conditions like cancer or heart disease, reported a study published in 2012 in the "Archives of Internal Medicine." Eat pork only occasionally and avoid processed pork products like ham or sausage as much as possible.

Feast on Fish

All fish and shellfish contain some carnitine, but cod has the highest concentration of any seafood. A 4-ounce serving supplies between 4 and 7 milligrams. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch suggests choosing handline-caught Atlantic cod from the northeast Arctic or Iceland or Pacific cod captured by trap, handline or bottom longline. Cod of these types are harvested in an environmentally friendly manner and have a low risk of contamination. Pregnant or nursing women and women who plan on becoming pregnant should limit their total seafood consumption to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish, including cod, per week.

Choose Chicken Breast

Chicken breasts aren't only high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol and a good source of vitamins and minerals, they're high in carnitine, with 3 to 5 milligrams in every 4-ounce serving of cooked meat. Choose skinless breasts or remove the skin before eating and use only a minimal amount of added fat like polyunsaturated vegetable oil when cooking. If you're concerned about your sodium intake, look for chicken breasts that haven't been enhanced with a saline solution. Enhanced chicken can contain over 400 milligrams of sodium in every 4 ounces.

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