What Are the Different Foods with Cysteine?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2020
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Good sources of animal-derived foods with cysteine include most meats, especially turkey, duck, and chicken, as well as milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt. Beneficial vegetable sources of foods containing cysteine are onions, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Wheat germ and oat are also good sources of cysteine. This essential organic compound promotes the production of cell-protecting antioxidants, detoxifies heavy metals and chemicals, and reduces the viscosity of mucous, making it easier to dislodge it from the lungs. Not only is cysteine important for everyday health, but it is also therapeutic in treating many different diseases and medical problems.

Cysteine, a crucial amino acid, can be manufactured by the body from another amino acid, methionine, or it can be obtained by ingesting foods rich in this organic compound. Poultry and meats pack the most cysteine per serving and are therefore the best example of foods with cysteine. There is roughly 0.014 ounces (0.4 grams) of cysteine in 1 cup (235 ml) of both cooked chicken and turkey. Egg yolks are also cysteine-rich.

Other sources of cysteine, such as dairy products and vegetables, provide less than 0.007 ounces (0.2 grams) of cysteine for each cup (235 ml) of food. While this is a relatively low concentration of cysteine when compared to meat sources, it is still much higher than other foods. Dairy products that are strong sources of cysteine include ricotta cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.


The best vegetable-derived foods containing cysteine include onions, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Red peppers are also fairly high in this important amino acid. Cysteine supplements are available when a deficiency in this amino acid requires high doses of this organic compound.

It is essential to eat foods with cysteine to reap the benefits of this important amino acid. Cysteine is refashioned by the body into the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Antioxidants protect cells from free radical damage. For this reason, eating foods with cysteine is recommended for cancer patients, people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, and sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis.

Detoxification of heavy metals and chemicals in the liver is another benefit of cysteine. Occasionally, cysteine supplements are used to manage overexposure to heavy metals or some chemicals. Acetaminophen overdoses are also responsive to cysteine therapy.

This important amino acid is also capable of breaking up mucous. Cysteine does this by breaking the disulfide bond in the mucoprotein. This reduces the thickness of the mucous, making it easier to dislodge from the lungs. Eating foods with cysteine is recommended for patients suffering from respiratory problems such as asthma and respiratory or viral infections.


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