Arginine is an interesting compound. It's an amino that is present in some foods, including the arginine rich foods that we're featuring in this list. It is important in the production of protein and also plays other roles in the body. Arginine may offer health benefits too, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing chest pain.
Despite the potential benefits, arginine isn't considered an essential amino acid for adults, as our bodies can make the amino acid themselves. Arginine foods also tend to be a common part of modern diets, so most people will have all the arginine that they need.
Still, if you’re interested in the potential health benefits of arginine, then increasing your intake could be useful.
There is, however, one thing to consider. Some people aim to decrease their arginine intake and increase lysine instead because diets that are high in lysine and low in arginine can help to treat and even prevent cold sores. So, if you get cold sores often, keeping your arginine intake low could be helpful.
Table of Contents
Arginine Rich Foods
- Nuts And Seeds
- Other Meat
- Lupin Beans
- Split Peas
- Other Legumes
Nuts And Seeds
There are many types of nuts and seeds to choose from, including the popular snacking options and more obscure ones. Nuts and seeds are always powerful for nutrients, although the exact nutrient composition varies depending on the nut or seed that you’re considering.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the best arginine sources here. Sesame seeds and pine nuts are other types of seeds that you might consider. Watermelon seeds contain arginine too, although these seeds aren’t often eaten as a snack.
As for nuts, walnuts tend to be one of the best choices, followed by almonds. Each of these nuts has other advantages too, as walnuts are thought to improve cognition and brain health, while almonds are often called the most nutritious nut.
Meat of any type tends to be a complete protein source, so it’s always going to offer you some arginine. Chicken is one of the best choices, giving you more than 3,600 mg of arginine in a 6-ounce cooked chicken breast. Eating an entire chicken leg with skin provides you with more arginine again.
Even though you’re getting more arginine from a chicken leg versus the breast, many people would opt for chicken breast instead. After all, chicken breast is a lean cut of meat that also happens to be versatile. You can easily use it in recipes and it’s even a good meal prep ingredient.
Other types of meat are powerful too. Steak, turkey, and pork all score high for their arginine content. Less common types of meat may be significant too, including game meats.
Realistically though, you don’t need to worry too much about the type of meat that you choose. You’re going to be getting arginine either way, along with other nutrients and plenty of protein.
One of the best things that you can do is to simply include various types of meat in your diet, along with plenty of plant-based foods. This approach provides you with a wide range of nutrients and phytochemicals, helping to decrease the risk that you’ll be deficient in any area.
As is the case with meat, just about any type of fish is going to provide you with arginine. Tuna, grouper, and salmon are especially notable sources, although other types of fish shouldn’t be ignored either.
Salmon is a particularly good choice, as this fish is relatively low in mercury and contains an array of important nutrients. Salmon is also popular for its flavor and texture. Salmon is often described as being meatier than white fish, which can be an appealing feature.
You can also find multiple forms of salmon, including fresh salmon, canned salmon, and smoked salmon. Each form has its own advantages. For example, smoked salmon works well with eggs or as part of an appetizer, while fresh salmon makes a great ingredient for dinner.
The nutrient composition of salmon varies depending on where the fish comes from and whether it was wild caught or was a farmed fish. Wild caught salmon is thought to be much healthier, offering you more omega 3 fatty acids and a better balance of nutrients.
Some types of seafood provide a decent amount of arginine too. Alaskan king crab tops the list here, providing more than 2,000 mg of arginine in just one leg of the crab. Other types of crab are notable too, including blue crab and queen crab.
Shrimp is the next type of seafood to consider for your arginine intake. A 3-ounce serving of cooked shrimp provides a little under 2,000 mg of arginine, similar to the amount that you get with a serving of lobster.
Other types of seafood are notable too, such as octopus, clams, and mussels. Still, while you’ll get some arginine from most types of shellfish, shrimp, Alaskan king crab, and lobster are the most notable options.
Lupin beans are a relatively uncommon type of legume. They’re generally eaten pickled, partly because the beans need to be soaked for a long time before they become edible.
But, don’t let this fact put you off. Lupin beans are also nutritious and are even called a superfood from time-to-time. As with regular beans, there are various types to choose from, including white, yellow, and blue lupin beans.
Pickling the beans isn’t the only way to eat them, as lupin beans can also be powdered and used in a type of flour. This flour can be added to various recipes as a way to easily increase nutrient intake.
Vegetarians and vegans often turn to tofu as an easy plant-based source of protein. Tofu is made from soy milk that has been coagulated and then pressed. It doesn’t have much flavor of its own, but will easily take on the flavors of other ingredients in your meal.
Tofu does have problems too.
One is that it is a difficult type of protein to digest. Excessive intake of tofu could lead to excess uric acid. There are also concerns about phytoestrogens in soybeans and the way that soy might be genetically modified.
Tofu, and other soybean-based products, tend to offer more advantages than disadvantages. They’re particularly important if you are trying to cut out meat or keep your meat intake low, as you need to get protein from somewhere.
Even so, it’s worth being aware of your soy intake. You may run into problems if you heavily rely on soybean-based products and ingredients. After all, soy is a common ingredient, as are products like soy milk and soy flour. It’s easy to eat large amounts of soy without meaning to.
Oats can seem a little bland and boring on occasion, but they’re also very healthy, especially as a breakfast food. One reason is the fiber that they contain, which may help to decrease cholesterol levels and also helps to improve your balance of gut bacteria.
Oats also offer arginine, with a cup of uncooked oats providing a little over 1,800 mg of the amino acid. That’s not too bad when you consider how easy oats are to use.
Besides, oats are also inexpensive and can be stored for ages. These features are perfect for anyone who needs to closely watch their spending.
Here’s an interesting one. Gelatin contains a decent amount of arginine too. This means that you’re getting arginine from your Jello, from foods that rely on gelatin as an ingredient, and from any supplements that use gelatin capsules.
You might not know that you’re eating gelatin either, given that it is a gelling agent in many types of processed foods. We’re not just talking about foods like gummy bears and gelatin desserts either. Gelatin is often added into foods for texture and mouth-feel and is especially common in low-fat foods.
So, you might see gelatin used in cream cheese and margarine from time-to-time. Gelatin often isn’t used in large quantities, but it is an ingredient to be aware of if you eat processed foods regularly.
Tofu contains arginine, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that soybeans themselves do too. You end up with a little over 1,700 mg of arginine in a cup of cooked green soybeans, although the arginine content may vary depending on how the soybeans are cooked.
This isn’t too bad as you probably won’t be eating a cup of cooked soybeans at a time.
Still, as we mentioned earlier, soybeans are used in a wide range of different products. This means that you should pay attention to your soy intake. Otherwise, it’s easy to consume much more arginine than you intend to.
Split peas are another popular legume. They’re often used as an ingredient in soups and stews, with split pea soup being a classic example.
The amount of arginine in a cup of split peas is lower than in a cup of soybeans and split peas are often easier to use too, which are both distinct advantages.
We’ve mentioned lupin beans, soybeans, and split peas so far, which are all legumes and all offer a decent amount of arginine. Other legumes tend to contain less arginine than these three types, but they can still be significant.
For example, a cooked cup of lentils or chickpeas tends to contain a little more than 1,300 mg of arginine. Both of these legumes can be used in many ways.
Chickpeas are especially interesting, as they’re the base ingredient for hummus. You can also roast and season chickpeas, then snack on them in the same way as you would nuts. Roasted chickpeas taste delicious and are lower in fat than nuts, making them a useful snack choice.
Peanuts too are high in arginine, falling somewhere in the middle of the amounts from soybeans and chickpeas (we’re including peanuts in this section because they are technically legumes, even though we tend to eat them as if they were nuts instead).
Seaweed does have many advantages as a health food. It does contain some interesting nutrients, is vegan-friendly, and is low in calories.
Seaweed is also a notable source of arginine. This could be a problem for people who are trying to avoid cold sores. Small doses of seaweed may not be a big problem, but be wary if you are eating seaweed often.
The same pattern is true for algae like spirulina and chlorella. These products have many of the same nutrients as seaweed, which does mean that they’re a source of arginine as well.
Chocolate is an unfortunate addition to this list, as it can be high in arginine. The amount does vary dramatically depending on the type of chocolate that you choose – and the amount of arginine tends to increase along with the darkness of the chocolate. This happens because the arginine comes from compounds in cocoa beans and darker chocolate tends to contain more cocoa.
Of course, dark chocolate does have a wide range of other advantages. It’s even considered to be a superfood, so you don’t need to cut it out of your diet.
In fact, all of these arginine rich foods are good for you. Each offers its own appealing balance of nutrients and can still be an important part of your diet.