The Top 30 Vegan Food Sources of Isoleucine

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Isoleucine is one of the most important amino acids for athletes, along with leucine and valine.

Those 3 amino acids combined make up about 70% of your body’s total proteins.

Isoleucine in particular is a branched chain amino acid that helps with your energy levels, endurance, and muscle tissue recovery.

If you’re an athlete, you need to be getting a decent amount of isoleucine, either from your diet or through supplements.

Like other amino acids, it’s trickier to get on a vegan diet, although it can still be done if you eat the right foods.

That’s why I looked up the nutritional data of 120+ vegan whole foods in the USDA database. The lists below are the top vegan sources of isoleucine, and it’s a pretty exhaustive list.

Before you look at the charts, keep in mind that the minimum amount of isoleucine recommended per day is 19 mg per kg of bodyweight.

So for a 77kg (170 lb) adult, that’s 1463 mg, or 1.463 grams.

That’s the minimum for an average person, but if you’re an athlete you’ll want to try and get more.

The Best Vegan Isoleucine Sources Per Serving

This first table is in order of how much isoleucine is in a serving of each food. This is independent of calories.

The table lower down on the page takes into account calories, rather than serving size. Use that one if you’re on a cut and are restricting calories.

Food Serving Energy (kcal) Isoleucine (g)
Oats 1 cup 607 1.083
Soybeans 1 cup 254 0.977
Lentils 1 cup 230 0.772
Lima beans 1 cup 209 0.745
Buckwheat groats 1 cup 567 0.723
Swiss chard 10 leafs 91 0.706
Navy beans 1 cup 255 0.704
Adzuki beans 1 cup 294 0.69
Kidney beans 1 cup 225 0.678
Black beans 1 cup 227 0.673
Peanuts 0.5 cup 414 0.662
Chickpeas 1 cup 269 0.623
Pumpkin seeds 1 cup 285 0.612
Mung bean 1 cup 212 0.6
Pistachio nuts 0.5 cup 344 0.564
Sesame seeds 0.5 cup 413 0.549
Fava bean 1 cup 187 0.52
Cashew 0.5 cup 393 0.501
Spinach 1 bunch 78 0.5
Almonds 1/2 cup 313 0.406
Hemp seeds 3 tbsp 166 0.386
Hazelnut 0.5 cup 424 0.368
Pine nuts 0.5 cup 454 0.366
Walnut 0.5 cup 383 0.366
Rye grain 1 cup 571 0.352
Brazil nut 0.5 cup 438 0.344
Quinoa 1 cup 222 0.29
Peas 1 cup 117 0.283
Cowpeas 1 cup 160 0.281
Eggplant 1 eggplant 137 0.247

For the most part, the top results here shouldn’t be too surprising.

Most of the top results are legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts), which also have a lot of protein. Beans have a well-rounded amino acid profile as well.

What may be a little surprising is that there are a few grains near the top as well. Oats and buckwheat groats are both in the top 5, even though that grains have small amounts of protein in the first place.

The Top Vegan Isoleucine Sources Per 100 Calories

The second way to look at the data is by ordering the foods in terms of how much isoleucine they contain per 100 calories of the food. This could be more than one serving, or less.

Food Serving Energy (kcal) Isoleucine (g) Isoleucine (g) per 100 calories
Seaweed (dried) 1 tbsp 20 0.225 1.125
Swiss chard 10 leafs 91 0.706 0.7758241758
Watercress 10 sprigs 3 0.023 0.7666666667
Bok choy 1 cup 9 0.06 0.6666666667
Spinach 1 bunch 78 0.5 0.641025641
Water spinach 1 cup 11 0.058 0.5272727273
Kale 2 cup 15 0.073 0.4866666667
Rapini 5 stalks 21 0.099 0.4714285714
Bamboo shoot 1 shoot 17 0.073 0.4294117647
Soybeans 1 cup 254 0.977 0.3846456693
Asparagus 4 spears 13 0.049 0.3769230769
Lima beans 1 cup 209 0.745 0.3564593301
Lentils 1 cup 230 0.772 0.3356521739
Kidney beans 1 cup 225 0.678 0.3013333333
Black beans 1 cup 227 0.673 0.2964757709
Lettuce (red leaf) 0.5 head 20 0.059 0.295
Mung bean 1 cup 212 0.6 0.2830188679
Cauliflower 1 cup 27 0.076 0.2814814815
Brussels sprouts 1 cup 56 0.156 0.2785714286
Fava bean 1 cup 187 0.52 0.2780748663
Navy beans 1 cup 255 0.704 0.2760784314
Squash 1 large 52 0.136 0.2615384615
Zucchini 1 large 55 0.142 0.2581818182
Peas 1 cup 117 0.283 0.2418803419
Turnip greens 1 cup 18 0.043 0.2388888889
Adzuki beans 1 cup 294 0.69 0.2346938776
Hemp seeds 3 tbsp 166 0.386 0.2325301205
Broccoli 1 cup 31 0.072 0.2322580645
Chickpeas 1 cup 269 0.623 0.231598513
Pumpkin seeds 1 cup 285 0.612 0.2147368421

Legumes still do well on this list, but the top 10 spots or so are taken by vegetables.

Most of these are leafy greens like swiss chard, watercress, bok choy, spinach, kale, etc.

Obviously they don’t have a ton of protein in them, but they have a relatively high amount of isoleucine, and a low amount of calories. You would have to eat several servings to meet your RDA, but it’s an option to help you get there.

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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