What Are the Most Common Arginine-Rich Foods?

A.M. Boyle

Arginine, otherwise known as L-arginine is a type of protein-building amino acid. Although the human body makes arginine, a person can introduce additional amounts into his or her system by eating arginine-rich foods. The most common kinds of foods that contain arginine include certain types of seeds, tree nuts, and soy beans. Some types of shellfish and meats also have varying amounts of arginine. Whole grains, particular vegetables, and different cheeses also contain this beneficial amino acid.

Broad beans are a source of arginine.
Broad beans are a source of arginine.

At one time, experts considered arginine a nonessential amino acid, meaning that the body produced sufficient amounts on its own. Various studies and evidence subsequently caused arginine to be reclassified as a semiessential amino acid, meaning that, in certain circumstances and under certain conditions, the body might not synthesize enough arginine to maintain optimal levels. Consequently, a person could benefit from consuming arginine-rich foods.

Winter squash is high in arginine.
Winter squash is high in arginine.

High levels of arganine are found in certain seeds, such as sesame and pumpkin seeds. Tropical tree nuts, such as macadamia, Brazil, and coconuts also contain elevated amounts of the amino acid. More common nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts are generally considered arganine-rich foods as well. Soy nuts and products made from soy are arganine powerhouses too.

Green peas are high in arginine.
Green peas are high in arginine.

Luckily for those who have allergies to nuts, arganine can also be found in other common foods. For instance, certain types of shellfish, and particularly crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters, are loaded with arginine. Other types of fish, such as salmon, cod, and bluefish, also have decent amounts of arginine.

Pumpkin seeds contain high levels of arginine.
Pumpkin seeds contain high levels of arginine.

For people who are not big fans of seafood, certain meats are considered arginine-rich foods. These meats include poultry, such as chicken and turkey, along with some types of game, such as pheasant and deer. Beef and pork also have some amounts of arginine but usually not as much as poultry and game.

Cocoa beans are high in arginine.
Cocoa beans are high in arginine.

Strong levels of arginine are also found in certain curd-type cheeses, such as ricotta and cottage cheese. Those who prefer to stock up on arginine through vegetables should opt for squash, especially winter squashes, including pumpkin and acorn. Broad beans, green peas, and garlic also pack an arginine punch, although the most benefit can be obtained from eating them raw. Most whole grains, such as wheat, barley, rice, and rye also store very heavy amounts of arginine. Potatoes and yams also contain some amount, although not as much as whole grains.

Some unexpected edibles also fall into the category of arginine-rich foods. For instance, gelatin products, whether flavored or plain, are quite high in arginine. A nice hot cup of cocoa can not only warm a person’s bones but provide a healthy dose of arginine as well. For people who are just not sure what types of food they should eat to increase their arginine intake, many health and nutrition stores sell supplements containing the amino acid.

While arginine-rich foods can be found to suit almost any individual taste and supplements are readily available, a person should avoid ingesting excessive amounts of the amino acid. Too much can cause gastrointestinal distress, such as nausea and diarrhea. Further, some studies have shown that high levels of arginine interfere with the action of another amino acid called lysine, which is sometimes used to treat certain types of infections.

High levels of arginine can be found in ricotta cheese.
High levels of arginine can be found in ricotta cheese.

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