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L-arginine Rich Foods

L-arginine is an important amino acid which is used by your body to make protein by changing to nitric oxide and relaxing your blood vessels. This action encourages your body to produce more protein. In addition to this it also makes urea which is important for removing ammonia from your body before it builds up to toxic levels. It is also thought to increase the secretion of growth hormone.

Clearly, with all of these healthful benefits, we need to ensure that we have enough L-arginine in our diet. Our bodies will make L-arginine, but it is possible to get more from the foods we eat and from supplementation.

It is thought that adding extra L-arginine to our diets is safe for up to three months and supplements should not be taken by pregnant women. It is also wise to consult your doctor if you have a complicated medical history or are on medication.

How much arginine you want or need will depend on what your reasons for adding it to your diet are. However doses of between 6 g and 20 g per day are standard for improving physical performance. Foods which are high in protein are also likely to be high in L-arginine but if you have specific reasons for increasing your level of intake you may need to supplement.


Food from the sea or fish in general have high levels of L-arginine and some species have excellent levels. Tuna, anchovies and shellfish contain the highest levels with around 1700 mg in a single 100 gram serving. Sardines contain around 1500 mg in a serving and scallops will offer about 1200 mg. Other types of fish will contain between 1000 mg and 1200 mg per 100 gram serving. A serving is usually considered to be around the amount you can hold in your hand or 100 grams. This converts to 3.5 oz.

Animal products

Foods such as meat and dairy have high concentrations of L-arginine. Examples of these are beef steak at 1200 mg for a 100 gram serving and chicken breast which comes in at 1000 mg. Meanwhile cheese is also a good source with 950 mg per serving. Whey products sold as supplements for shakes are also great sources.


If you are a vegetarian and prefer to get your L-arginine from non-animal sources you could try eating nuts. It is surprising to learn that some nuts have even higher levels of the amino acid than some types of meat. Pine nuts are a perfect example with 4750 mg of L-arginine per equivalent 100 gram serving. Peanuts contain closer to 3500 mg and other types of nuts have at least 2000 mg. It is worth pointing out of course, that a serving of nuts the same size and weight as a steak will have significantly higher calories and fat content.

Grains and pulses

Another meat-free option for L-arginine are oats and wheat germ. Oats contain around 1200 mg per serving and wheat germ will pack in 1000 per 100 gram serving. This can be consumed with dairy products such as milk or yoghurt which will add further L-arginine to your diet. Other good sources include chickpeas and soybeans.


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