Essential Amino Acid Profiles for All Nuts [Data]

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Nuts are one of the best bulking foods due to their high caloric content.

They’re also a decent protein source when it comes to snacks.

While you want to be mindful of the omega 3 to 6 fat ratio of nuts, you also want to make sure you’re eating other protein sources that compensate for any low amounts of individual amino acids in nuts.

As long as you’re eating the complementary amino acids within the same day or so, there’s nothing to worry about.

The Limiting Amino Acids of Nuts

I collected amino acid data for all common nuts, and then calculated how many servings of each nut would it take to reach the RDA for each essential amino acid.

We focus on essential amino acids, because they’re the only ones you need to pay any real attention to in your diet.

You can click to expand the image below (it should open in a new tab in a larger size):

servings to reach rda of amino acids in nuts

We see a few things stand out in red (indicating many required servings to reach RDA):

  • Almost all nuts have low amounts of lysine and methionine.
  • Peanuts and pistachios are fairly well balanced.
  • Macadamia nuts have low amounts of all essential amino acids. They mostly contain non-essential amino acids.

When we talk about a limiting amino acid of nuts, it’s pretty clear that lysine and methionine are both limiting amino acids.

For vegans, the best plant-based sources of lysine are pretty much any type of bean and oats.

Methionine is just generally tough to get on a vegan diet, Brazil nuts are actually the best source, followed by oats, seeds (hemp, sesame, etc.), and beans.

Non-vegans can get a lot of both lysine and methionine from animal products like beef, cheese, and turkey.

Peanut Amino Acid Profile

You say legume, I say nut.

I have the tendency to eat a lot of peanuts and peanut butter, so I was particularly interested in the essential amino acid profile of peanuts.

The far right column will tell you how many milligrams of an amino acid is in a 0.5 cup serving of peanuts. Compare this one to the column beside it, which is the RDA for that amino acid (in mg) for a 70 kg (154 lb) person.

 RDARDAPeanuts
 mg per kgfor 70 kg person0.5 cup
Tryptophan (mg)4280182
Threonine (mg)151050645
Isoleucine (mg)201400662
Leucine (mg)3927301221
Lysine (mg)302100676
Methionine (mg)151050231
Phenylalanine (mg)2517501005
Valine (mg)261820790
Histidine (mg)10700476

You’ll hit your RDA of most essential amino acids with just a few servings of peanuts. The only ones that take more are lysine and methionine, as is expected.

Walnut Amino Acid Profile

Walnuts have quite a few limiting amino acids.

Take a look at the data:

 RDARDAWalnuts
 mg per kgfor 70 kg person0.5 cup
Tryptophan (mg)428099
Threonine (mg)151050349
Isoleucine (mg)201400366
Leucine (mg)392730684
Lysine (mg)302100248
Methionine (mg)151050138
Phenylalanine (mg)251750416
Valine (mg)261820441
Histidine (mg)10700229

You need at least 3 servings (so 1.5 cups total) of walnuts to meet any of the RDAs. If you’re larger than 70 kg, you’ll have to eat even more.

Walnuts are very limited in lysine and methionine, but also fairly deficient in leucine, isoleucine, valine, and phenylalanine.

Basically, don’t rely on walnuts too much for protein.

Pine Nut Amino Acid Profile

I don’t know many people who could afford to eat a large amount of pine nuts on a regular basis, but let’s look at their essential amino acid breakdown anyways.

 RDARDAPine nuts
 mg per kgfor 70 kg person0.5 cup
Tryptophan (mg)428072
Threonine (mg)151050250
Isoleucine (mg)201400366
Leucine (mg)392730669
Lysine (mg)302100365
Methionine (mg)151050175
Phenylalanine (mg)251750354
Valine (mg)261820464
Histidine (mg)10700230

Pine nuts have a pretty even distribution of amino acids. They’re not great for any particular one, but not horrible either.

It takes 3-4 servings to reach the RDA for most of the amino acids.

Hazelnut Amino Acid Profile

Here’s another expensive nut that most people don’t eat much of unless they really like hazelnut butter spreads.

 RDARDAHazelnut
 mg per kgfor 70 kg person0.5 cup
Tryptophan (mg)4280130
Threonine (mg)151050335
Isoleucine (mg)201400368
Leucine (mg)392730718
Lysine (mg)302100283
Methionine (mg)151050149
Phenylalanine (mg)251750448
Valine (mg)261820473
Histidine (mg)10700292

Its profile is pretty typical for a nut.

Decent for most amino acids, but very bad for lysine and methionine. Nothing else really stands out.

Brazil Nut Amino Acid Profile

Brazil nuts have the most interesting nut profile to me. Pay special attention to its methionine content.

 RDARDABrazil nut
 mg per kgfor 70 kg person0.5 cup
Tryptophan (mg)428090
Threonine (mg)151050243
Isoleucine (mg)201400344
Leucine (mg)392730791
Lysine (mg)302100326
Methionine (mg)151050747
Phenylalanine (mg)251750425
Valine (mg)261820505
Histidine (mg)10700272

It is the only nut that takes less than 2 servings to hit the RDA for a 70 kg person.

For some reason, Brazil nuts have a ton of methionine, so they’re definitely worth adding to your mix of nuts if possible.

Other than that, they have a pretty typical profile for a nut, decent in most amino acids, but low in lysine.

Macadamia Nut Amino Acid Profile

Macadamia nuts are the worst nuts by far if you’re eating them specifically to get more essential amino acids.

It’s fine to eat some, just don’t make them a major protein source.

 RDARDAMacadamia nut
 mg per kgfor 70 kg person0.5 cup
Tryptophan (mg)428045
Threonine (mg)151050248
Isoleucine (mg)201400210
Leucine (mg)392730403
Lysine (mg)30210012
Methionine (mg)15105015
Phenylalanine (mg)251750446
Valine (mg)261820243
Histidine (mg)10700131

Macadamia nuts are insanely low in both lysine and methionine. It would take hundreds of servings to reach the lysine RDA.

Other than those 2 amino acids, macadamia nuts are still low in just about every essential amino acid.

Pistachio Nut Amino Acid Profile

Pistachio nuts have a very good essential amino acid profile (for a nut anyways).

Let’s take a look:

 RDARDAPistachio nuts
 mg per kgfor 70 kg person0.5 cup
Tryptophan (mg)4280154
Threonine (mg)151050421
Isoleucine (mg)201400564
Leucine (mg)392730986
Lysine (mg)302100700
Methionine (mg)151050221
Phenylalanine (mg)251750672
Valine (mg)261820768
Histidine (mg)10700315

For most of the amino acids, it takes just 2-3 servings to exceed the RDA.

It’s really only very low in methionine, which would take about 5 servings to hit the RDA. Pair pistachios with Brazil nuts and you have a fairly decent complete protein snack.

Cashew Amino Acid Profile

The amino acid profile for cashews is very similar to pistachios, which puts it at the top of the nuts in terms of quality.

It’s just a bit worse for most than pistachios, but not significantly.

 RDARDACashew
 mg per kgfor 70 kg person0.5 cup
Tryptophan (mg)4280162
Threonine (mg)151050406
Isoleucine (mg)201400501
Leucine (mg)392730880
Lysine (mg)302100560
Methionine (mg)151050188
Phenylalanine (mg)251750542
Valine (mg)261820712
Histidine (mg)10700273

Again, you can hit the RDA for most amino acids in 2-3 servings.

They’re quite low in methionine, and the lysine content is on the low side as well, as expected.

However, cashews are a fairly decent source of tryptophan.

Almond Amino Acid Profile

Almonds are very easy to eat in large quantities if you eat almond butter or bake with almond flour.

Their essential amino acid profile is pretty average for nuts:

 RDARDAAlmonds
 mg per kgfor 70 kg person0.5 cup
Tryptophan (mg)4280114
Threonine (mg)151050325
Isoleucine (mg)201400406
Leucine (mg)392730795
Lysine (mg)302100307
Methionine (mg)15105085
Phenylalanine (mg)251750611
Valine (mg)261820462
Histidine (mg)10700291

Very low in both lysine and methionine, and decent for most others. Valine is a bit on the low side as well.

Summary

Nuts can be a nice protein source, especially if you’re bulking, but the average nut is very deficient in lysine and methionine.

Brazil nuts strangely have a ton of methionine, so they pair well with other nuts.

In terms of overall essential amino acid content, the most well-rounded nuts are peanuts, pistachios, and cashews.

To get enough lysine and methionine from other sources, focus on eating beans, oats, and seeds.

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.

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