Lysine is an amino acid of which vegetarians, and especially vegans, often do not get enough. Lysine is found in abundance within meats and other protein foods, such as beef, turkey, pork, lamb, chicken, as well as fish and eggs.
Since vegans and vegetarians do not typically consume animals or their products, how can they get enough?
Vegetarian foods that are highest in lysine
Although meat contains all 22 common amino acids, including lysine, it is not a product that vegetarians—and especially vegans–consume. Below are some suggestions for a high-lysine diet and the kind of protein foods that can provide this important amino acid.
Lysine from protein foods should include eating 1.0 to 1.1 grams/kilogram of body weight daily (for adults). This is especially important if you are over the age of 60.
Vegetarian sources of lysine-containing foods, for the vegetarian that allows no mammals, but do allow some animal products, include these… Ovo-vegetarians can eat eggs, which have all 22 amino acids, including plenty of lysine. Pescetarians eat fish, which is also an excellent source, plus have heart-healthy oils for cardiovascular health. Lacto-vegetarians eat milk / dairy products, which contain lesser amounts of this amino acid, but definitely more than vegetable sources.
Vegan foods high in lysine
There are definitely some high-lysine vegan foods that are available for people who do not eat any animal products whatsoever. Vegetable sources for lysine, which should be eaten daily, include: Legumes, quinoa, seitan, pistachios. Legumes include soybeans, and products of soybeans (such as tempeh, tofu, soy milk, soy protein, etc.), and beans (garbanzo, pinto, black beans, and other dry beans) and their products (refried beans, hummus, falafel), and peas (split, green peas, black-eyed, etc.).
Nine essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body, so must be taken in via food or through supplementation. Legumes and seitan—per serving—have the highest amount of lysine. In fact, the highest vegan foods also include tempeh, tofu, soy meats, lentils, and seitan. Lysine is also found in fairly decent quantities within quinoa and pistachios.
The US RDA recommendation for lysine from proteins is about 1g/kg protein for children, and .8g/kg for people aged 18-59, and up to 1.3g/kg protein for people over 60. Lysine, since it is an amino acid, can also be taken as a dietary supplement. Overall, there is no reason why one has to give up their vegan or vegetarian lifestyle just because they won’t get enough of this amino acid. There are ample ways to include it via foods or supplementation into your daily regimen.