The 30 Best Vegan Lysine Food Sources

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lysine molecular structure

Lysine is one of the most important amino acids, 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)
Soybeans 1 cup 254 1.33
Adzuki beans 1 cup 294 1.304
Lentils 1 cup 230 1.247
Oats 1 cup 607 1.094
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
Chickpeas 1 cup 269 0.973
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
Peanuts 0.5 cup 414 0.676
Spinach 1 bunch 78 0.592
Cashew 0.5 cup 393 0.56
Rye grain 1 cup 571 0.483
Swiss chard 10 leafs 91 0.475
Peas 1 cup 117 0.46
Quinoa 1 cup 222 0.442
Sesame seeds 0.5 cup 413 0.41
Hemp seeds 3 tbsp 166 0.383
Pine nuts 0.5 cup 454 0.365
Cowpeas 1 cup 160 0.345
Brazil nut 0.5 cup 438 0.326
White potato 1 large 255 0.321
Almonds 1/2 cup 313 0.307
Chia seeds 3 tbsp 146 0.291
Hazelnut 0.5 cup 424 0.283
Eggplant 1 eggplant 137 0.258

Want lots of lysine? Eat plenty of legume. Just about all the top results are different types of beans (soy, adzuki, kidney, black), plus lentils.

Seeds are another good source (pumpkin, sesame, hemp), but not quite as good.

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.

Food Serving Energy (kcal) Lysine (g) Lysine (g) per 100 calories
Watercress 10 sprigs 3 0.034 1.133333333
Seaweed (dried) 1 tbsp 20 0.212 1.06
Rapini 5 stalks 21 0.188 0.8952380952
Cauliflower 1 cup 27 0.232 0.8592592593
Spinach 1 bunch 78 0.592 0.758974359
Bok choy 1 cup 9 0.062 0.6888888889
Bamboo shoot 1 shoot 17 0.114 0.6705882353
Water spinach 1 cup 11 0.061 0.5545454545
Lentils 1 cup 230 1.247 0.542173913
Soybeans 1 cup 254 1.33 0.5236220472
Asparagus 4 spears 13 0.068 0.5230769231
Swiss chard 10 leafs 91 0.475 0.521978022
Kale 2 cup 15 0.073 0.4866666667
Kidney beans 1 cup 225 1.053 0.468
Mung bean 1 cup 212 0.99 0.4669811321
Black beans 1 cup 227 1.046 0.4607929515
Adzuki beans 1 cup 294 1.304 0.443537415
Fava bean 1 cup 187 0.826 0.4417112299
Squash 1 large 52 0.21 0.4038461538
Broccoli 1 cup 31 0.123 0.3967741935
Peas 1 cup 117 0.46 0.3931623932
Zucchini 1 large 55 0.216 0.3927272727
Navy beans 1 cup 255 0.946 0.3709803922
Lima beans 1 cup 209 0.765 0.3660287081
Chickpeas 1 cup 269 0.973 0.3617100372
Lettuce (red leaf) 0.5 head 20 0.07 0.35
Brussels sprouts 1 cup 56 0.181 0.3232142857
Pumpkin seeds 1 cup 285 0.887 0.3112280702
Turnip greens 1 cup 18 0.054 0.3

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.

It’s also needed to absorb calcium and to make collagen, both of which are important for overall bone and joint health.

As long as you’re eating legumes and leafy greens regularly, you’ll have no problem getting more than enough lysine.

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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