Top 10 Foods Highest in Lysine

Photo of Daisy Whitbread Written by Daisy Whitbread
BSc (Hons) MSc DipION
Photo of Dr. Patricia Shelton Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Patricia Shelton
Evidence Based. References sourced from PubMed.
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Top 10 Foods Highest in Lysine

Lysine is an essential amino acid involved in the creation of the structural protein collagen as well as the retention of calcium. (1,2)

Lysine has also been found to reduce the frequency of recurrence of cold sores, which are caused by a common virus known as HSV. (3) This is more effective when the ratio of lysine to argnine is high (4).

Excess amounts of the amino acid arginine antagonize (block) some of the beneficial effects of lysine on the body, and can even create a lysine deficiency. (4)

High lysine foods include lean beef, chicken, pork, fish, shellfish, tofu, cheese, milk, beans, lentils, and peas. The reference dietary intake (RDI) for lysine is 30mg per kilogram of body weight or 13.6mg per pound. A person weighing 70kg (~154 pounds) should consume around 2100mg of lysine per day. (5)

Below is a list of the top 10 foods highest in lysine with the %RDI calculated for someone weighing 70kg (154lbs). For more high lysine foods see the extended list of lysine-rich foods, and the curated list of foods high in lysine and low in arginine.

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High lysine foods include lean beef, chicken, pork, fish, shellfish, tofu, cheese, milk, beans, lentils, and peas.

More Lysine Rich Foods

1. Soybean Sprouts 1 cup 25% RDI
2. Toasted Wheat Germ per oz 25% RDI
3. Eggs in 1 large egg 22% RDI
4. Quinoa per cup 21% RDI
5. Squash and Pumpkin Seeds per 1 oz handful 19% RDI
6. Hemp Seeds per oz 17% RDI
7. Oatmeal per cup 15% RDI
8. Brussels Sprouts per cup cooked 9% RDI
9. Brown Rice per cup 8% RDI
10. Almonds per 1oz handful 8% RDI

Foods Highest in Lysine and Lowest in Arginine

1. Farmed Atlantic Salmon per 6oz fillet 3451mg 2247mg
2. Milk 16oz glass 1382mg 470mg
3. Yogurt 1 cup 762mg 255mg
4. Swiss Cheese 1 oz 734mg 263mg
5. Cauliflower 1 cup chopped 232mg 92mg
6. Cremini Mushrooms 1 cup whole 219mg 107mg
7. Apricots 1 cup halves 150mg 70mg
8. Mangos 1 cup pieces 109mg 51mg
9. Starfruit (Carambola) 1 cup sliced 83mg 23mg
10. Papaya 1 cup pieces 36mg 15mg
For more see the ranking of all foods highest in lysine and lowest in arginine.

Use the ranking tool links below to select foods and create your own food list to share or print.

View more nutrients with the nutrient ranking tool, or see ratios with the nutrient ratio tool.

Data Sources and References

  1. Yamauchi M, Terajima M, Shiiba M. Lysine hydroxylation and cross-linking of collagen Methods Mol Biol. 2019;1934:309-324. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-9055-9_19. 31256387
  2. Brandi L. Dietary L-lysine and calcium metabolism in humans Dan Med Bull. 2008 Nov;55(4):186-210. 19232159
  3. DiGiovanna JJ, Blank H. Success of L-lysine therapy in frequently recurrent herpes simplex infection. Treatment and prophylaxis Arch Dermatol. 1984 Jan;120(1):48-51. 6419679
  4. Becker Y, Olshevsky U, Levitt J. Relation of arginine-lysine antagonism to herpes simplex growth in tissue culture J Gen Virol. 1967 Oct;1(4):471-8. doi: 10.1099/0022-1317-1-4-471. 4295376
  5. World Health Organization - Protein and Amino Acid Requirements In Human Nutrition
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