The 50 Best High Lysine Low Arginine Vegan Foods

T

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 best high lysine low arginine vegan foods:

FoodLysine (g)Arginine (g)Ratio
Cauliflower0.2320.0922.52
Apricot0.160.0742.16
Mango0.2220.1042.13
Apple0.0270.0132.08
Plum0.0110.0061.83
Nectarine0.0250.0141.79
Cherry0.0440.0251.76
Pear0.030.0181.67
Peach0.0450.0271.67
Avocado0.1750.1181.48
Green bell pepper0.0640.0441.45
Bamboo shoot0.1140.0821.39
Pineapple0.0220.0161.38
Beets0.060.0441.36
Zucchini0.2160.1651.31
Celery0.0170.0131.31
Squash0.210.1621.30
Tomato0.0490.0381.29
Melon0.090.071.29
Navy beans0.9460.7551.25
Green bean0.0480.041.20
Sweet potato0.0860.0721.19
Adzuki beans1.3041.1181.17
Rapini0.1880.1631.15
Asparagus0.0680.0591.15
Guava0.040.0361.11
Lettuce (red leaf)0.070.0631.11
Kidney beans1.0530.951.11
Black beans1.0460.9441.11
Carrot0.0730.0661.11
Spinach0.5920.5511.07
Kale0.0730.0681.07
Lotus root0.1080.1011.07
White potato0.3210.3031.06
Bok choy0.0620.0591.05
Corn0.1960.1871.05
Turnip greens0.0540.0521.04
Cantaloupe0.0310.031.03
Banana0.0680.0671.01
Leek0.0690.0691.00
Red bell pepper0.0590.0591.00
Ginger0.0010.0011.00
Mung bean0.990.9941.00
Lima beans0.7650.7750.99
Okra0.0770.080.96
Cowpeas0.3450.3660.94
Strawberry0.070.0760.92
Watercress0.0340.0370.92
Lentils1.2471.380.90

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:

FoodLysine (g)Arginine (g)Ratio
Macadamia nut0.0120.9390.01
Walnut0.2481.3330.19
Hazelnut0.2831.4920.19
Grapes0.0130.0640.20
Sesame seeds0.411.8940.22
Grapefruit0.0520.2340.22
Pine nuts0.3651.6290.22
Brazil nut0.3261.4230.23
Almonds0.3071.3310.23
Pecans0.1420.5830.24
Coconut meat0.1460.5420.27
Hemp seeds0.3831.3650.28
Peanuts0.6762.2520.30
Cassava0.090.2790.32
Onion0.0290.0780.37
Garlic0.0080.0190.42
Rice0.1530.3540.43
Flaxseed0.1780.3970.45
Chia seeds0.2910.6430.45

In short, nuts and seeds have a terrible ratio. Nuts have an amino acid profile that’s quite low in lysine.

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.

The 8 Best High Lysine Low Arginine Vegan Foods

  • Cauliflower – 2.52 ratio
  • Apricot – 2.16 ratio
  • Mango – 2.13 ratio
  • Apple – 2.08 ratio
  • Plum – 1.83 ratio
  • Nectarine – 1.79 ratio
  • Cherry – 1.76 ratio
  • Pear – 1.67 ratio

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

26 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.

  • Hi, this is very useful thank you. I have just contracted shingles for the second time and found something online by someone who said you can get it by consuming too much anginine. I have contacted vegan groups but nobody knows anything about it.

    The problem is by cutting down (or out) the nuts and seeds I don’t think I would get the right amount of nutrients!

    Confused.

    • That sounds awful, I had shingles once – not a pleasant experience.

      It does sound like you’ll need to plan your food fairly carefully. Grains like oats do happen to have a lot of the nutrients that nuts typically have.

      I’d recommend playing around with a tool like Cronometer to see if you can find an alternative way to meet your nutritional needs.

      Good luck!

      • Thank you for this. I have been vegan 5 months and have upped my intake of almonds & hazelnuts (allergic to all the others) as well as chickpeas in the form of homous significantly. I recently came off suppressants and have had constant outbreaks for 2 months. Someone on a forum advised me to research foods with arginine in and to take a l-lysine supplement. Being a vegan this was proving a bit tricky so your research is much appreciated, thank you 🙂

        Fingers crossed this is going to save me a lot of pain.

    • That study seems pretty inconclusive :/

      But you could be right, maybe it doesn’t matter too much, but I’ll keep the data posted for those who’d like to give it a go anyways.

    • “L-lysine supplementation appears to be ineffective for prophylaxis or treatment of herpes simplex lesions with doses of less than 1 g/d without low-arginine diets.”

      So it would appear that the above info would still prove useful in getting the best lysine-arginine ratio in a vegan diet.

    • They don’t stand out quite enough to make either of the lists on this page.

      For example, sunflower seeds have a ratio of about 0.45 (lysine:arginine), which is about the same as chia seeds.

  • This was extremely helpful! My husband & I are wanting to become Vegan & since I’m the only one with this condition I was really unaware on the toll it would take on my body. This has been a great help. Thanks a bunch !

  • Thanks for this! I’ve been vegan for almost 20 years and have also been a raw foodist. For the first time I’m in a period where I’m watching how much complete protein I’m getting. Also have had a rash from cmv which is a herpes virus but I’ve never heard about this lysine arginine ratio so this is interesting. Thanks 🙂

  • HI DALE, YOU ARE SO AWESOME FOR CREATING THIS COMPILATION. THANK YOU! IT SEEMS LIKE VIRAL INFECTIONS CAN BE THE ROOT CAUSE OF AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES (FOR EXAMPLE, EPSTEIN BARR VIRUS WAS FOUND IN EVERY THYMUS IN ONE STUDY OF MYASTHENIA GRAVIS PATIENTS). I ALSO DISCOVERED THAT SOMETHING CALLED “BLACK SEED” (NIGELLA SATIVA) CAN ELIMINATE EPSTEIN BARR VIRUS, (AND EVEN HIV!) IN 6 MONTHS OR LESS IF THE SEEDS ARE GROUND INTO A POWDER (2 TSP MIXED WITH RAW HONEY AM & PM) … WHEREAS THE BLACK SEED OIL IS INEFFECTIVE. BUT ANYWAY, SINCE ARGININE ATTRIBUTES TO VIRAL LOAD, I DECIDED TO DIVE INTO A HIGH LYSINE DIET TO SPEED UP MY HEALTH RECOVERY… ALONG WITH SOME AWESOME LIFESTYLE CHANGES TOO OF COURSE, LIKE REBOUNDING 20 MINUTES A DAY FOR LYMPH CLEANSING. I HAD MADE MY OWN LIST OF THE HIGHEST LYSINE TO ARGININE RATIOS OF VEGAN FOODS, HOWEVER, YOUR LIST HAD A FEW MORE EXCITING ADDITIONS THAT I HADN’T FOUND. WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR NUTRITIONAL DATA? THANKS! Meg

  • Thank you so much for your research on this. I suffer with Herpes Simplex and Herpes Zoster and just had another breakout on my left earlobe (of all places). I eat nuts constantly as a source of protein and nutrients. Now that I’m aware of the ratios of Lysine to Argenine, I’m going to focus on getting protein from alternative sources.

  • Thank you for your article. I have studied the arginine situation for years. Pumpkin seeds from everything I have read have the highest amount or arginine of all the foods! While I am not sure of the ratio, I feel very confident that regardless of the ratio, high arginine foods should be avoided.
    Also chocolate is a huge herpes trigger and high in arginine. It is hard for people to make changes, but basically if you cut out all nuts, seeds, chocolate and high arginine foods, you will most likely see a big difference! Although stress is also a big trigger.
    Also another trick is to read ALL the fine print on supplements. There was a vitamin D I was taking with pumpkin seed oil as the carrier oil. I couldn’t understand why I kept getting outbreaks. Also some it can be some random food that is a trigger specific to you! Like popcorn or oatmeal. You just have to see if you were eating a lot of something and then you had an outbreak!
    Thanks so much for your information!

  • I have found L-lsyine very helpful to keep cold sores away so don’t think that study above is totally accurate. At one point I even got a cold sore in one of my eyes which needed medical attention. So to keep the cold sores away I started taking 500 mg capsules of lysine every day which worked. The problem is that it caused many problems in my intestines from much gas to a painful gut. I have had to research a way out of taking the supplement and into eating real food.
    What I find challenging is that I like to eat a grain lunch every day. Trying to add lots of lysine friendly vegetables.
    Dale, I appreciate your charts here. I would love to see a chart on just grains as I have been searching and yet to find one.

  • Hello,

    This is awesome, chia seeds are currently my main source of omega 3 but I need to eliminate them now. Would you have any guidance on the best vegan omega 3 options?