The Best Vegan Food Sources of Phenylalanine

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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)
Oats 1 cup 607 1.396
Soybeans 1 cup 254 1.006
Peanuts 0.5 cup 414 1.005
Adzuki beans 1 cup 294 0.915
Lentils 1 cup 230 0.881
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
Chickpeas 1 cup 269 0.779
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
Almonds 1/2 cup 313 0.611
Pumpkin seeds 1 cup 285 0.591
Lima beans 1 cup 209 0.571
Fava bean 1 cup 187 0.546
Cashew 0.5 cup 393 0.542
Swiss chard 10 leafs 91 0.528
Hazelnut 0.5 cup 424 0.448
Macadamia nut 0.5 cup 481 0.446
Spinach 1 bunch 78 0.439
Hemp seeds 3 tbsp 166 0.434
Brazil nut 0.5 cup 438 0.425
Walnut 0.5 cup 383 0.416
Pine nuts 0.5 cup 454 0.354
Quinoa 1 cup 222 0.342
Chia seeds 3 tbsp 146 0.305
Peas 1 cup 117 0.29

Certain types of foods stand out:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
Watercress 10 sprigs 3 0.029 0.9666666667
Water spinach 1 cup 11 0.071 0.6454545455
Rapini 5 stalks 21 0.122 0.580952381
Swiss chard 10 leafs 91 0.528 0.5802197802
Spinach 1 bunch 78 0.439 0.5628205128
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
Kale 2 cup 15 0.063 0.42
Mung bean 1 cup 212 0.858 0.4047169811
Soybeans 1 cup 254 1.006 0.3960629921
Lentils 1 cup 230 0.881 0.3830434783
Asparagus 4 spears 13 0.049 0.3769230769
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
Broccoli 1 cup 31 0.106 0.3419354839
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
Chickpeas 1 cup 269 0.779 0.2895910781
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
Cauliflower 1 cup 27 0.07 0.2592592593
Squash 1 large 52 0.132 0.2538461538
Zucchini 1 large 55 0.139 0.2527272727
Peas 1 cup 117 0.29 0.2478632479
Peanuts 0.5 cup 414 1.005 0.2427536232

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.

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.

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