Phenylalanine is one of the tougher amino acids to get on a vegan diet, but easily done if you focus on the right foods.
I’ve collected nutrition data for over 120 whole foods that are vegan, and compiled a list of the top 30 in terms of phenylalanine on this page.
How much do you need per day?
According to the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), adults want to aim for a minimum of 33 mg/kg body weight/day.
For example, someone who is 77 kg (170 lb) would need 2541 mg (2.5 grams) of phenylalanine per day.
The average adult gets 5-8 grams per day, which far exceeds the minimum. But it’s a bit harder on a vegan diet to get that much.
But it’s possible.
The Best Phenylalanine Food Sources Per Serving
It takes 2-3 servings of the top foods on this list to reach the minimum RDA. Ideally you’ll have more.
|Food||Serving||Energy (kcal)||Phenylalanine (g)|
|Adzuki beans||1 cup||294||0.915|
|Mung bean||1 cup||212||0.858|
|Navy beans||1 cup||255||0.857|
|Kidney beans||1 cup||225||0.83|
|Black beans||1 cup||227||0.824|
|Buckwheat groats||1 cup||567||0.756|
|Rye grain||1 cup||571||0.735|
|Sesame seeds||0.5 cup||413||0.677|
|Pistachio nuts||0.5 cup||344||0.672|
|Pumpkin seeds||1 cup||285||0.591|
|Lima beans||1 cup||209||0.571|
|Fava bean||1 cup||187||0.546|
|Swiss chard||10 leafs||91||0.528|
|Macadamia nut||0.5 cup||481||0.446|
|Hemp seeds||3 tbsp||166||0.434|
|Brazil nut||0.5 cup||438||0.425|
|Pine nuts||0.5 cup||454||0.354|
|Chia seeds||3 tbsp||146||0.305|
Certain types of foods stand out:
- Certain grains – Oats, rye, and buckwheat may not have much protein overall, but they have a lot of phenylalanine. Try to make those your staple grains rather than wheat and rice.
- Legumes – Many beans are rated high on this list (soybeans, adzuki, mung, navy, kidney, etc.), as well as lentils.
Foods With the Most Phenylalanine Per 100 Calories
If you’re trying to minimize your calories while maximizing the amount of phenylalanine you’re getting, we can look at the data in a slightly different way.
The following table is a list of foods sorted by phenylalanine per 100 calories.
Note that you’ll need to eat multiple servings of many of the top foods to get to 100 calories even. So you’ll end up eating a higher volume of food, but fewer overall calories to get the same amount of phenylalanine.
|Food||Serving||Energy (kcal)||Phenylalanine (g)||Phenylalanine (g) per 100 calories|
|Seaweed (dried)||1 tbsp||20||0.194||0.97|
|Water spinach||1 cup||11||0.071||0.6454545455|
|Swiss chard||10 leafs||91||0.528||0.5802197802|
|Lettuce (red leaf)||0.5 head||20||0.104||0.52|
|Green bell pepper||1 large||33||0.151||0.4575757576|
|Bamboo shoot||1 shoot||17||0.076||0.4470588235|
|Mung bean||1 cup||212||0.858||0.4047169811|
|Kidney beans||1 cup||225||0.83||0.3688888889|
|Black beans||1 cup||227||0.824||0.3629955947|
|Bok choy||1 cup||9||0.031||0.3444444444|
|Navy beans||1 cup||255||0.857||0.3360784314|
|Adzuki beans||1 cup||294||0.915||0.3112244898|
|Fava bean||1 cup||187||0.546||0.2919786096|
|Turnip greens||1 cup||18||0.051||0.2833333333|
|Lima beans||1 cup||209||0.571||0.2732057416|
|Hemp seeds||3 tbsp||166||0.434||0.2614457831|
Legumes still show up on the list, although much lower, but grains have disappeared.
The most effective foods in term of caloric density are leafy greens like seaweed, spinach, chard, lettuce, and kale.
Having a giant salad made from one of those will go a long way to getting enough phenylalanine, but you’ll still probably have to have some legumes at some point in the day or you’ll get sick of vegetables.
What’s Phenylalanine Used For?
Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, meaning that your body cannot make it if you’re not getting enough in your diet.
It’s an important component when making dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters. Both of which are important for energy and enjoyment.
Other Amino Acids Hard to Get For Vegans
There are 3 other essential amino acids that can be tricky for vegans to get.
You might be interested in the best sources of each of them: