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 1. 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.
- Researchers and consumers are interested in the benefits of individual amino acids.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
Recommended Dose of L-Lysine
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.
- Meeting your protein needs on a vegan diet can be challenging.
- Peanuts have about 1 gram, sunflower seeds and walnuts have about 0.75 grams.
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- 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.
- Singh M., Rao D.M., Pande S., Battu S., Mahalakshmi K., Dutt K.R., Ramesh M. Medicinal uses of l-lysine: past and future. Int. J. Res. Pharm. Sci. 2011;2:637–642
- Mailoo VJ, Rampes S. Lysine for herpes simplex prophylaxis: a review of the evidence. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2017;16(3):42-46.
- DiGiovanna JJ, Blank H. Failure of lysine in frequently recurrent herpes simplex infection. Treatment and prophylaxis. Arch Dermatol. 1984 Jan;120(1):48-51.
- Chi CC, Wang SH, Delamere FM, Wojnarowska F, Peters MC, Kanjirath PP. Interventions for prevention of herpes simplex labialis (cold sores on the lips). Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015; 8):CD010095. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010095.pub2
- Singh BB, Udani J, Vinjamury SP, et al. Safety and effectiveness of an L-lysine, zinc, and herbal-based product on the treatment of facial and circumoral herpes. Altern Med Rev. 2005;10(2):123-7.
- Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutr J. 2010;9:42. doi: 0.1186/1475-2891-9-42
- Fini M, Torricelli P, Giavaresi G, Carpi A, Nicolini A, Giardino R. Effect of L-lysine and L-arginine on primary osteoblast cultures from normal and osteopenic rats. Biomed Pharmacother. 2001 May;55(4):213-20. doi:10.1016/s0753-3322(01)00054-3
- Leinonen I, Iannetta PPM, Rees RM, Russell W, Watson C, Barnes AP. Lysine supply is a critical factor in achieving sustainable global protein economy. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 2019;3. doi:10.3389/fsufs.2019.00027
- Akabas SR, Vannice G, Atwater JB, Cooperman T, Cotter R, Thomas L. Quality Certification Programs for Dietary Supplements. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116(9):1370-1379. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.11.003
- Civitelli R, Villareal DT, Agnusdei D, Nardi P, Avioli LV, Gennari C. "Dietary L-lysine and calcium metabolism in humans." Nutrition. 1992 Nov-Dec;8(6):400-5.
- Shaheen E Lakhan, Karen F Vieira. "Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review." Nutrition Journal. October 2010. 9:42doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-42. 7.
- Smriga M, Ando T, Akutsu M, Furukawa Y, Miwa K, Morinaga Y. "Oral treatment with L-lysine and L-arginine reduces anxiety and basal cortisol levels in healthy humans." Biomed Res. 2007 Apr;28(2):85-90.
Julie Miller has turned her passion for nutrition into a writing career. She holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition as well as a master's degree in education. After teaching middle-school math and science for many years, she began her writing career.