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 best high lysine low arginine vegan foods:

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. 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.