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The health of hair, skin and nails depends on getting enough of the amino acid cysteine. You also need cysteine to produce the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Healthy people can synthesize what they need as long as they get adequate methionine, the essential amino acid from which cysteine is derived 1. However, stress or sickness may leave the body unable to produce enough cysteine. In these cases, a cysteine-rich diet can fulfill the requirement. Cysteine can exist naturally in foods as cystine, a compound metabolized to yield two cysteine molecules 1.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture lists the food content of cystine, not cysteine, in the amino acid section of their National Nutrient Database 14. According to their information, one of the richest sources of cystine -- and, once broken down in the body, cysteine -- is turkey breast meat 1. One whole roasted turkey breast contains 2.4 grams of cystine, while a single 3-ounce serving has 0.24 grams. Other types of poultry, including goose, chicken and pigeons, are also high in cystine.
Omega 3 in Eggs
Raw soybeans contain 1.2 grams of cystine in each cup. Roasted, unsalted soybeans have nearly 1 gram per cup and can serve as a cholesterol-free, high-cysteine snack. Defatted soy flour has approximately 0.8 grams in every cup. Use soy flour as a fiber- and protein-rich, virtually fat-free addition to rye or wheat flour in recipes for baked goods like cookies, yeast breads or quick breads. Substituting 10 to 30 percent of regular flour with soy flour is a good rule, advises the Soyfoods Association of North America 6.
- Raw soybeans contain 1.2 grams of cystine in each cup.
- Roasted, unsalted soybeans have nearly 1 gram per cup and can serve as a cholesterol-free, high-cysteine snack.
Glucose-reduced dried egg white powder contains 2.2 grams of cystine in each cup 8. A 2-teaspoon serving of the powder reconstituted with water to act as a substitute for one egg white supplies about 0.1 grams of cystine. One large, whole hard-cooked egg contains 0.2 grams of the amino acid.
Vitamins in Whole Wheat
A cup of oats and a cup of uncooked couscous have about the same amount of cystine at 0.6 grams. Look for whole-grain versions of these cereals whenever possible, such as bread made with whole wheat flour instead of refined flour bread for more fiber, vitamins and minerals in addition to the cystine.
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Food Sources of Methionine and Cysteine
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- Healthy.net: Cysteine and Cystine
- MedlinePlus: Amino Acids
- ConsumerLab.com: Question - What is the Difference Between Cysteine and Cystine?
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nutrients - Cystine (g)
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Full Report (All Nutrients) - 05711, Turkey, Retail Parts, Breast, Meat Only, Cooked, Roasted
- Soyfoods Association of North America: Soy Flour
- What's Cooking America: Powdered Egg Whites - How to Use Powdered Egg Whites
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Full Report (All Nutrients) - 01136, Egg, White, Dried, Powder, Stabilized, Glucose Reduced
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Full Report (All Nutrients) - 01129, Egg, Whole, Cooked, Hard-Boiled
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.