✓ Evidence Based

11 Healthy Foods High in Arginine

Arginine is one of the nine essential amino acids that are present in many different types of food (1, 2). It can be easy to get enough arginine if you eat a well-balanced diet.

For the body to make proteins, arginine and all essential amino acids are necessary (3). The body cannot produce arginine or any other amino acids on its own (4), so it is essential to get it from your diet.

This essential amino acid is also necessary to improve blood flow (5). That is because arginine breaks down into nitric oxide in the body, which helps blood vessels open more, ultimately improving blood flow and preventing blood clots (6). It also increases muscle blood function (7).

You likely will not need to supplement with arginine if you eat a healthy balanced diet. Although, you should always consult your healthcare professional if you think you may benefit from arginine supplementation as well as dietary management.

Summary: Arginine is one of nine essential amino acids. To make proteins in the body, amino acids such as arginine are essential. The body cannot make amino acids, so you must consume them through a healthy diet. Arginine helps improve blood flow, increase muscle blood function, and prevent blood clots.

Foods High in Arginine

So, the question on your mind may now be, are you getting enough of the essential amino acid arginine in your diet? Check out the list below to see what foods you can get more arginine from today.

1. Red Meat

Red meat is one of the most common sources of all nine essential amino acids (8), and arginine is one of those amino acids.

Too much red meat is never a good thing, but the right amount of red meat can be a part of a healthy balanced diet.

Lean red meat that is grass-fed is the healthiest form of meat you can eat to get all nine essential amino acids as well as more vitamins and minerals for protein synthesis, muscle formation, and more (9).

Summary: Lean grass-fed red meat is rich in all nine essential amino acids, especially arginine. Consume a proper portion size, about the size of your palm, a few times a week. Pair it with a bunch of vegetables and a serving of whole grains to balance the meal.

 

2. Fish

Arginine and omega 3 fatty acids in fish can have a significant effect on wound healing and even infection (11).

Many types of fish are an excellent source of arginine and heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids. If you can, try to eat more of the fatty fish lowest in mercury. That includes sardines, mackerel, herring, anchovies, and salmon to name a few.

Other fish are also great to add to your diet, just not quite as often due to the mercury levels. These include white fish, tuna, swordfish, mahi-mahi, other larger fish varieties.

Summary: Fish is rich in both arginine and omega-3 fatty acids, helpful for wound healing and preventing infection. Sardines, mackerel, herring, anchovies, and salmon are the best options. Consume white fish, tuna, swordfish, or mahi-mahi less often due to their higher mercury levels. Fish is very easy to cook. Simply sauté it in a pan or bake in an oven with balsamic vinegar and lemon.

3. Whole Grains

Many whole grains include high levels of the essential amino acid arginine, especially rice, oats, and buckwheat (12).

Brown rice tends to be the highest of the rice varieties rich in arginine (13). These foods can be important for vegetarians and vegans to include getting more essential amino acids into their diet.

Whole grains can be a healthy part of any diet for the most part. Change up your diet on occasion to include some of these whole grains more and see how you feel. Take an inventory a few hours after the meal and see if you can benefit from more arginine-rich whole grains more often.

Summary: Whole grains such as brown rice, oats, or buckwheat contain high amounts of arginine. This is important for vegans and vegetarians so they can be sure to add essential amino acids through plant sources to their diets. Try something new such as quinoa breakfast bowls, buckwheat pancakes, or barley soup.

4. Poultry

Poultry such as chicken, turkey, and duck, contain high amounts of arginine per serving size (14).

Glutamine plays a large role in arginine synthesis, too. Poultry is also high in glutamine (15). Chicken is one of the healthiest forms of poultry because it’s low in fat, high in protein, and full of essential amino acids.

Adding some lean meat poultry to your diet every so often can benefit your health in the form of weight loss, high metabolism, protein synthesis, and more.

Summary: Poultry (chicken, turkey, and duck) contain high amounts of arginine. Poultry is also high in glutamine, which helps with arginine synthesis. Add some lean poultry options such as white chicken or turkey meat to your diet.

5. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are one of the most nutrient-rich sources of many nutrients, including the amino acid arginine (16).

You may not think a seed so small can pack in so much nutrition, but these seeds are a great example of how true that can be. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of calcium, healthy fats, protein, iron, and more.

Eating more pumpkin seeds can help to lower your risk of hypertension (17), heart disease, (18), and lower inflammation throughout the body in general. Lowering inflammation in the body is necessary to avoid help you avoid disease and infections.

Summary: Pumpkin seeds are rich in calcium, healthy fats, protein, iron, and even arginine. This superfood is easy to add into your daily diet. Sprinkle it over salads or soups, add it to a homemade trail mix, or blend it into a smoothie. Pumpkin seeds help reduce hypertension, heart disease, and lower inflammation.

6. Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are another potent tiny seed packed with nutritional power.

Like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds are full of healthy fats, protein, and the amino acid arginine (19). In addition to those, they are also full of beneficial fiber, essential B vitamins, heart-healthy and disease-fighting antioxidants, and more (20).

These seeds are also high in another essential amino acid called lysine (21). Lysine is another amino acid that is also necessary for protein synthesis and even collagen production (22). Start to snack on some sesame seeds more often for your daily snack and see if you can benefit from more of these healthy seeds.

Summary: Sesame seeds are full of healthy fats, protein, fiber, B vitamins, and arginine. They are also high in another amino acid, lysine, which is helpful for protein synthesis and collagen production. Add some sesame seeds to your stir-fry, oatmeal, or trail mix.

7. Seaweed

Seaweed is a type of algae that is full of nutrition benefits, such as their high iodine content (23) as well as their high arginine properties (24).

You can add more seaweed to your diet in the form of easy seaweed snacks, seaweed salad, or even as a kelp seasoning to get more in your daily meals.

Seaweed is a powerful source of nutrition in that it can help to protect against heart disease, due to its high vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant properties (25). Seaweed is also a potent food to incorporate if you have thyroid issues or to prevent thyroid flareups in the future (26).

Summary: Seaweed is a very powerful food, full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and the amino acid arginine. Seaweed snacks, salads, or seasonings are perfect to add to your daily diet.

8. Pine Nuts

Pine nuts are another nutritional nut that has a strong heart-protective and anti-inflammatory effects (27).

High in many vitamins and minerals, pine nuts are an excellent source of arginine, too (28).

These nuts have a rich flavor, so you can easily add them to many of your favorite meals. They go well toasted on top of vegetable dishes, especially sweet potatoes, and much more. You can also toast pine nuts for a hearty salad or dessert.

Summary: Pine nuts have a rich flavor and nutrient profile. Full of vitamins, minerals, and especially arginine, they are perfect to add to vegetable dishes, pesto, soups, or salads.

9. Walnuts

Walnuts have a similar effect to fish in that they are both high in heart-healthy omega 3 essential fatty acids as well as the amino acid arginine (29).

Add in some walnuts to your diet for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even just a handful of protein-rich snacks throughout the day.

These nuts are a great way to promote brain health, too. That is because of their high quantity of omega 3 fatty acids (30). Many people are low in essential omega 3 fatty acids because of the heavily processed nature that is a large component of the standard American diet (SAD).

Summary: Walnuts are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids and the amino acid arginine. This brain and heart-healthy food is perfect to add to your daily diet. It goes well in oatmeal, salads, trail mix, and homemade pesto.

10. Almonds

Almonds are an excellent nut to choose if you want to get more arginine, calcium, healthy fats, magnesium, vitamin E, fiber, and even protein (31).

That is one reason almonds have become the alternative dairy milk of choice for many. Did you know that there is slightly more calcium in a cup of almonds than there is in a cup of milk? If you are lactose intolerant, almonds are a great choice to get in your calcium and many vitamins.

Easy ways to consume more almonds include exchanging your dairy milk for almond milk, adding shaved almonds to oatmeal, salads, or cereal, and much more.

Summary: Almonds are an excellent food full of arginine, calcium, healthy fats, magnesium, vitamin E, fiber, and protein. Drink almond milk, add almonds to salads or soups, or spread almond butter on toast or crackers.

11. Legumes

Many types of legumes are high in arginine, too. These include soybeans, chickpeas, and peanuts (32). Although you may think peanuts are in the nut family, they are technically a part of the legume family.

Soybeans contain most of this essential amino acid (33, 34), and they can easily be a part of a healthy balanced diet. You can get the benefits of soybeans through the raw snack, tofu, edamame, soy milk, miso, and even some meat alternatives.

Although these are all high in arginine, it does not mean they are all healthy to include for everyone. Everyone’s bodies are different in how they process soy, so while some may benefit from tofu, others may have a hard time with soy-based meat alternatives. This is largely due to the extra ingredients often in the processed versions of soybean foods like gluten and other additives.

Summary: Legumes are high in arginine, such as soybeans, chickpeas, and peanuts. Soybeans contain most of the essential amino acids, and can be consumed in tofu, edamame, soy milk, or miso forms. Add chickpeas to soup and stews, use tofu in stir-fry, or snack on peanuts to reap the health benefits.

Conclusion

Arginine is just one of the nine essential amino acids that humans need for optimal functioning throughout the body. Many of these foods contain the other nine essential amino acids, too.

Everyone needs the essential amino acids, and nutrients like vitamins and minerals, and they all need to work together like a symphony in the body.

If you feel like you may not be getting the nine essential amino acids like arginine in your daily diet, try to add some of these foods as snacks or parts of your main meals. Many of these can be an easy snack or meal addition for easy consumption.

Always consult your healthcare professional if you think you may benefit from arginine supplementation or a dietary shift.

HealthNormal

Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, and written, fact-checked & medically reviewed by health experts.

Throughout this article, you'll find scientific references (clickable links to highly trusted peer-reviewed scientific papers, links denoted by the numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3)).