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Foods High in Lysine and Low in Arginine

Foods High in Lysine and Low in Arginine

There are many health benefits of foods that are high in lysine and low in arginine. Some of these foods and their benefits have been mentioned in this article. Check them out so that you can plan your meals accordingly.
Sujata Iyer
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
Our body is a machine which is more than capable of taking care of itself. And when it cannot, it sends us warning signals asking us to look into the matter and take the necessary steps to ensure that it gets the required nutrition for its daily biological processes. The various bodily fluids and enzymes required for all the body processes to go on smoothly are also more or less readily available within our body. However, there are some enzymes that cannot be produced by the body, and hence, need to be introduced through our diet. These are called essential amino acids. Out of these essential amino acids, lysine and arginine are quite important, and help our body in many ways. In this NutriNeat article, however, we will focus on foods that are rich in lysine and low in arginine, and see why and how these foods benefit our body.
Benefits of Lysine
It is an essential amino acid, which is very helpful in building strong muscle tissues. It also helps to recover from serious injuries or a recent surgery. It has been observed that lysine rich foods also help in the retention of calcium within the body. Also, it helps to prevent viral infections, especially herpes.
Benefits of Arginine
It is an amino acid that helps in the production of spermatozoa in men. It also helps to produce the growth hormone and strengthens the immune system of the body. It is also known to have stress busting properties, and helps to improve metabolism and aids in the treatment of ailments such as arthritis.
Lysine-rich and Low-arginine Foods
While it is true that lysine and arginine have a lot of benefits separately, there are some ailments like the herpes viral infection that can be treated only if the ratio of lysine to arginine in the food is properly balanced. For these ailments, it is necessary that the lysine content in food is higher than that of arginine. This is because studies have proved that lysine acts as a herpes suppressant, but thew presence of arginine interferes with this property and reduces its efficacy, thereby, allowing the viral infection to progress. Hence, herpes patients are advised to reduce their arginine intake and increase their lysine intake, for a better prognosis. Given below are some examples of such foods. (*All foods mentioned here are as per the Agricultural Handbook, 1-23, U.S. Department of Agriculture.)
Dairy: Milk and milk products are the best examples of foods that are high in lysine and low in arginine content, thus making them the primary choice to include in diets for people suffering from herpes. Even within the various dairy products available, the following are the best options for an optimum lysine - arginine ratio.
  • Margarine
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Low Fat Fruit Yogurt
  • Skim Plain Yogurt
  • Low Fat Plain Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Buttermilk
  • Skim Milk
  • Half and Half Cream
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Ice Cream
  • Whole Milk
  • Non-fat Milk
  • Whipping Cream

Fish and fish products are also great sources. In fact, they give you almost 1½ times more lysine than arginine, which is very favorable if you have been advised to follow a high lysine and low arginine diet. The exception is any kind of shellfish, as it can have an opposite effect. Here are the types of fish you can eat safely.
  • Salmon
  • Swordfish
  • Haddock
  • Smelt
  • Snapper
  • Pollock
  • Eel
  • Catfish
  • Whitefish
  • Cod
  • Mackerel
  • Pike
  • Herring
  • Bluefish

Though not as high as fish, some meats do have a favorable lysine to arginine ratio, that can be useful for people who are prescribed such a diet. Here's the list of meats that you can consume.
  • Pork Spare Ribs
  • Dark Meat Chicken
  • Chicken Neck
  • Pork Leg
  • Pork Shoulder
  • Chicken Drumstick
  • Beef Round Steak
  • Beef Rib Roast
  • Beef Short Ribs
  • Beef Tenderloin
  • Pork Sausage
  • Ground Beef

Fruits and Vegetables:
Some fruits and vegetables also have low arginine levels. You'll find them below.
  • Mango
  • Apricot
  • Apple
  • Dried Pear
  • Pear
  • Fig
  • Avocado
  • Tomato
  • Turnips
  • Pineapple
  • Potato
  • Celery
  • Dried Peach
  • Plum
  • Green Beans
  • Lentil Sprouts
  • Lettuce
  • Cauliflower
  • Guava
  • Spinach
  • Watermelon
  • Cabbage
  • Corn
  • Sweet Potato
  • Turnip Greens
  • Banana
  • Asparagus

This list of foods which have more lysine and less arginine is not a complete one. The items in this list have been arranged in the descending order of the ratio of lysine to arginine as per the U.S.D.A handbook. Before consuming these foods consult your doctor and make sure you are not allergic to any of them. Eat healthy, stay fit and no illnesses and ailments will bother you!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.