Lysine is one of the most important amino acids for vegans, and also more difficult to get once you’re on a vegan diet.
But even though it’s more difficult, it’s still not hard, especially if you eat vegan lysine-rich foods often.
I’ve put together a thorough list of the vegan foods that are highest in lysine. First by the amount per serving, then by the amount per 100 calories (good if you’re dieting).
For reference, there’s no official recommended daily amount for lysine, but literature usually recommends around 12 mg per kilogram of bodyweight.
For someone who is 77 kg (170 lb), that’s 924 mg of lysine per day. As you’ll see, it’s easy to get that in a single serving of certain foods.
The Best Vegan Lysine-Rich Food Sources (Per Serving)
When I collected this data, which comes straight from the USDA food composition database, I chose “reasonable” serving sizes to make the data useful.
In all, I collected nutritional data for over 120 whole foods, and these were the top 30 for lysine:
|Food||Serving||Energy (kcal)||Lysine (g)|
|Adzuki beans||1 cup||294||1.304|
|Kidney beans||1 cup||225||1.053|
|Black beans||1 cup||227||1.046|
|Mung bean||1 cup||212||0.99|
|Buckwheat groats||1 cup||567||0.976|
|Navy beans||1 cup||255||0.946|
|Pumpkin seeds||1 cup||285||0.887|
|Fava bean||1 cup||187||0.826|
|Lima beans||1 cup||209||0.765|
|Pistachio nuts||0.5 cup||344||0.7|
|Sunflower seeds||0.5 cup||409||0.656|
|Rye grain||1 cup||571||0.483|
|Swiss chard||10 leafs||91||0.475|
|Sesame seeds||0.5 cup||413||0.41|
|Hemp seeds||3 tbsp||166||0.383|
|Pine nuts||0.5 cup||454||0.365|
|Brazil nut||0.5 cup||438||0.326|
|White potato||1 large||255||0.321|
|Chia seeds||3 tbsp||146||0.291|
Want lots of lysine? Eat plenty of legumes.
Just about all the top results are different types of beans (soy, adzuki, kidney, black), plus lentils.
Oats and seeds (pumpkin, sesame, hemp) are also good sources, but not quite as good.
While nuts have some lysine, their essential amino acid profiles are typically low in lysine.
The Top Vegan Lysine Sources Per 100 Calories
Let’s say you’re really trying to limit your overall caloric intake, and want to maximize the amount of lysine you’re getting per calorie.
In that case, here are the top 30 foods in terms of grams of lysine per 100 calories.
Lysine (g) per 100 calories
|Seaweed (dried)||1 tbsp||20||1.06|
|Bok choy||1 cup||9||0.69|
|Bamboo shoot||1 shoot||17||0.67|
|Water spinach||1 cup||11||0.55|
|Swiss chard||10 leafs||91||0.52|
|Kidney beans||1 cup||225||0.47|
|Mung bean||1 cup||212||0.47|
|Black beans||1 cup||227||0.46|
|Adzuki beans||1 cup||294||0.44|
|Fava bean||1 cup||187||0.44|
|Navy beans||1 cup||255||0.37|
|Lima beans||1 cup||209||0.37|
|Lettuce (red leaf)||0.5 head||20||0.35|
|Brussels sprouts||1 cup||56||0.32|
|Pumpkin seeds||1 cup||285||0.31|
|Turnip greens||1 cup||18||0.30|
|Green bean||10 beans||17||0.28|
Legumes still score really well, so you should be including them in your diet.
However, including a lot of leafy greens that rank high here (watercress, rapini, spinach, kale, bok choy), and other vegetables (cauliflower, asparagus, squash) is good idea. You’ll just have to eat a lot of them to meet your RDA of lysine alone.
Why Do You Need Lysine?
As a quick refresher, lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning the body cannot produce it. It has to come from the diet.
It’s a very important one, especially for athletes, as it plays a big part in all types of protein synthesis.
As long as you’re eating legumes and leafy greens regularly, you’ll have no problem getting more than enough lysine.
Finally, research has shown that consuming a high ratio of lysine to arginine can prevent cold sores. If you’re interested in the foods best for that, see my list of the best high lysine low arginine vegan foods.
Other Hard to Get Amino Acids for Vegans
If you’re interested in lysine, you might be interested in the best plant-based sources of these other amino acids: