The 50 Best High Lysine Low Arginine Vegan Foods

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There’s a lot of research showing that a high lysine and low arginine diet is effective at preventing herpes symptoms like cold sores from appearing.

Dairy is great for this, but obviously not an option on a vegan diet.

Two things matter.

First, the amount of lysine. You want to aim for at least 1.5-3 grams of lysine per day.

Secondly, you want a reasonably low amount of arginine.

In other words, you want a high ratio of lysine to arginine, which is what we’ll look at here.

Vegan Foods With the Highest Ratio of Lysine to Arginine

I collected detailed nutritional data for all the vegan foods I could find.

I’ve then calculated a ratio of lysine to arginine (higher is better), and sorted the data by the ratio between the two. Most of these foods come from my list of the best vegan sources of lysine.

Here’s a table of the results, all the data is per serving of food.

Food Lysine (g) Arginine (g) Ratio
Cauliflower 0.232 0.092 2.52
Apricot 0.16 0.074 2.16
Mango 0.222 0.104 2.13
Apple 0.027 0.013 2.08
Plum 0.011 0.006 1.83
Nectarine 0.025 0.014 1.79
Cherry 0.044 0.025 1.76
Pear 0.03 0.018 1.67
Peach 0.045 0.027 1.67
Avocado 0.175 0.118 1.48
Green bell pepper 0.064 0.044 1.45
Bamboo shoot 0.114 0.082 1.39
Pineapple 0.022 0.016 1.38
Beets 0.06 0.044 1.36
Zucchini 0.216 0.165 1.31
Celery 0.017 0.013 1.31
Squash 0.21 0.162 1.30
Tomato 0.049 0.038 1.29
Melon 0.09 0.07 1.29
Navy beans 0.946 0.755 1.25
Green bean 0.048 0.04 1.20
Sweet potato 0.086 0.072 1.19
Adzuki beans 1.304 1.118 1.17
Rapini 0.188 0.163 1.15
Asparagus 0.068 0.059 1.15
Guava 0.04 0.036 1.11
Lettuce (red leaf) 0.07 0.063 1.11
Kidney beans 1.053 0.95 1.11
Black beans 1.046 0.944 1.11
Carrot 0.073 0.066 1.11
Spinach 0.592 0.551 1.07
Kale 0.073 0.068 1.07
Lotus root 0.108 0.101 1.07
White potato 0.321 0.303 1.06
Bok choy 0.062 0.059 1.05
Corn 0.196 0.187 1.05
Turnip greens 0.054 0.052 1.04
Cantaloupe 0.031 0.03 1.03
Banana 0.068 0.067 1.01
Leek 0.069 0.069 1.00
Red bell pepper 0.059 0.059 1.00
Ginger 0.001 0.001 1.00
Mung bean 0.99 0.994 1.00
Lima beans 0.765 0.775 0.99
Okra 0.077 0.08 0.96
Cowpeas 0.345 0.366 0.94
Strawberry 0.07 0.076 0.92
Watercress 0.034 0.037 0.92
Lentils 1.247 1.38 0.90

Quite a few foods have a decent ratio between the two amino acids.

In general, you want to focus on:

  • Fruits – Even though they don’t have much protein, they have a relatively high amount of lysine. Apricots, mangos, apples, plums, peaches, etc. are all good. They’re also one of the main sources of vegan vitamin C.
  • Vegetables – Cauliflower, avocado, and bell peppers are all near the top of the list.
  • Legumes – Multiple types of beans and lentils all have a ratio of 0.9 or better, which is decent. More importantly, they have a high raw amount of lysine, which will help you reach your daily targets.

The Vegan Foods With the LOWEST Ratio of Lysine to Arginine

I think it could also be useful to know which foods to go out of your way to avoid if you’re trying to get the best ratio possible.

Let’s take a look at the worst 20:

Food Lysine (g) Arginine (g) Ratio
Macadamia nut 0.012 0.939 0.01
Walnut 0.248 1.333 0.19
Hazelnut 0.283 1.492 0.19
Grapes 0.013 0.064 0.20
Sesame seeds 0.41 1.894 0.22
Grapefruit 0.052 0.234 0.22
Pine nuts 0.365 1.629 0.22
Brazil nut 0.326 1.423 0.23
Almonds 0.307 1.331 0.23
Pecans 0.142 0.583 0.24
Coconut meat 0.146 0.542 0.27
Hemp seeds 0.383 1.365 0.28
Peanuts 0.676 2.252 0.30
Cassava 0.09 0.279 0.32
Onion 0.029 0.078 0.37
Garlic 0.008 0.019 0.42
Rice 0.153 0.354 0.43
Flaxseed 0.178 0.397 0.45
Chia seeds 0.291 0.643 0.45

In short, nuts and seeds have a terrible ratio.

The only non-nuts that you need to limit are onion, garlic, and rice.

Hopefully this helps you find a vegan diet that works for you and is high in lysine, and relatively low in arginine.

About the author

Dale C.

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance writer. Trying to do my small part in making the world better by writing about the wonderful world of veganism.

6 comments

  • Thanks so much! I’ve been a serious vegan for about two years. However, my outbreaks have been getting worse due to some stress and realizing I have to go back to my diet I had 30 years ago. I’m taking oregano oil which had immediate results along with lemonbalm tea, lysine,resveratrol, Curcumin, Zinc and applying calendula baby cream for the welty red areas. I’m on the mend but I was so miserable about 2 days ago!! A chart of various herbs and uncommon grains like millet would be helpful too!!
    Thanks for the info and sharing a not so easy subject!

  • This is great! A very comprehessive and well thought out list, complete with the science to support it. Thanks for sharing!

    • The gram amounts in the tables are per a typical serving, which varies a lot based on the food. The more important thing here is the ratio between arginine and lysine in each food, which will be consistent no matter how much you eat.