Tag Archives: lysine deficiency

Lysine Deficiency in Vegans and Vegetarian Diet

Lysine is an amino acid that is very often found in deficient levels within vegetarians, and especially vegans. 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, the levels of lysine are sometimes dangerously low. How can this be helped?

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 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 from the health food store or drug stores. Overall, there is no reason why one has to give up their vegan or vegetarian lifestyle just because they are deficient in this aminio acid. There are ample ways to include it via foods or supplementation into your daily regimen.



Common Vegan Diet Deficiency… Amino Acid Lysine

People who follow a vegan diet may want to beware of a diet-based lysine amino acid deficiency which can lead to fatigue, mood swings, hair loss, unexpected weight loss, growth delays in children and anemia.

According to a 2011 Harris Interactive study, the number of people following a vegan diet in the United States has doubled since 2009 to 2.5% of the population. An amazing 7.5 million U.S. citizens now eat vegan diets that do not include any animal products – no meat, poultry, fish, dairy or eggs.

Vegan Amino Acids Deficiency

The amino acid Lysine is a common deficiency in the diet of a vegetarian, and particularly of vegans, as are amino acids in general. All 22 amino acids come from food; specifically, from proteins. While chicken and beef provide all 22 amino acids (aminos are the building blocks of proteins), animal meats are not on the vegan/vegetarian diet; however, if one is an ovo-vegetarian (one who eats eggs)j or lacto-vegetarian (one who eats dairy products) then some amino acids can be consumed for this purpose. Also, if one is a pesco-vegetarian (one who eats fish) then amino acids can be gotten that way as well. Interestingly, it is lysine that is the one amino acid that is commonly missing from most vegan menus.

High-Lysine Amino Acid Foods for Vegans and Vegetarians

Lysine is an amino acid that can come from food, but is often taken as a supplement. To obtain lysine amino acid from protein one needs 1.0 to 1.1 grams per kilogram of body weight each day (adults), especially if you are over the age of 60. High-lysine foods include legumes, quinoa, pistachios, and seitan, and need to be eaten daily. Adding enough protein to the diet is extremely important to maintain enough lysine in the body. Legumes, which include soybeans (and products from soybeans such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy meats, and so on), also include beans (pinto, garbanzo, pinto and other dry beans) and their products (falafel, refried beans, and hummus), peas (black-eyed, split, green peas, etc.), lentils, and even peanuts.

There are 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) that the body cannot produce, which must be taken in through food or supplementation. The percentages of EAAs in soy products and animals are close to those in human proteins; however, non-soy plant proteins have at least one amino acid that is lower than soy proteins. Interestingly, legumes and their products are actually fairly close to the percentages in soy.

Other Foods High in the Amino Acid Lysine

Seitan and legumes, per serving, have the highest amount of the amino acid lysine. In particular, it is tempeh and tofu, soy meats, lentils, and seitan, which are highest, with other legumes and their products falling in under that. Lysine is the amino acid that is also found in decent amounts in pistachios and quinoa. As a general rule of thumb, vegans and vegetarians should try to consume the US RDA recommendations for proteins and lysine, approximately 1g/kg of protein for children, .8g/kg for people 18-59, and up to 1.3g/kg for those over age 60.

Nitrogen balance can also affect how much of the amino acid lysine one needs, as well as amino acids in general. Basically, it is simply recommended that vegans and vegetarians ensure they have more than enough protein to accommodate issues such as nitrogen imbalance. The Vegan Health organization has put together some information on nitrogen balance, as well as a chart for the protein and amino acids in foods in one of their articles on proteins and lysine for vegans.

The bottom line is that vegans and vegetarians should obtain more lysine and other amino acids through diet or supplements to ensure that their health is maintained since lysine and amino acid deficiencies are common.