On a vegan diet (or any diet), it isn’t just enough to reach your protein requirements, but it is also essential you are eating enough of each of the different amino acids.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 amino acids, 11 of which the body can make through the food eaten. The remainder 9 amino acids must consumed via the diet. These 9 amino acids are called Essential Amino Acids.
Lysine is one of those essential amino acids and it is one that is hardest to get through a plant based diet. It is important to ensure you are eating enough, a deficiency may not be notable right away, but in time it can lead to health problems.
Remember a person can meet their protein requirements, but not meet their amino acid requirements. Eg, a person could meet their protein requirements eating ten cups of brown rice. However, they would not reach their lysine amino acid requirements. Brown rice is not high in lysine.
Why Is Lysine Important?
- Plays a role in the formation of collagen, a substance important for bones and connective tissues including skin, tendons, and cartilage.
- It helps the body produce carnitine, which is important for using fat for energy.
- It helps your body to absorb calcium, zinc and iron.
Deficiences can include fatigue, dizziness, muscle depletion, agitation, lack of concentration, red eyes and osteoporosis.
How much Lysine Do We Need?
An adult needs approximately 38 mg of lysine per 1 kg of body weight.
Below are some lysine rich foods:
- Tempeh is a fermented soy product made from soybeans. It is good for your digestive tract due to the fermentation. It has a nutty taste and can be used in stir fries and salads.
- 100 grams of tempeh provides about 18.2 grams of protein and 800 mg of lysine (1).
- Lentils are the quickest legume to cook from dry making them convenient. Add them to curries, soups and stews.
- 100 grams or 1/2 cup of cooked lentils provides about 7.3 grams protein and 530 mg lysine (2).
- Chickpeas are another versatile legume. They can be used in curries, soups, stews, dips and for snacks.
- 136 grams of 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas provides about 6 grams of protein and 400 mg lysine (3).
- Quinoa contains all essential amino acids. It is the only grain (but technically a seed) that does, making it a complete protein. It can be used in a variety of ways including for breakfast, in stir fries and in salads.
- 185 grams or 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains about 8.1 grams of protein and 442 grams of lysine (4).
- Oats are cheap and easy making them a vegan food staple.
- 45 grams or 1/2 cup uncooked oats contains about 5.6 grams of protein and 242 mg of lysine (5).
- Pumpkin seeds are another vegan must. Whilst being a fantastic protein source they are also high in zinc and iron. Pumpkin seeds can be added to smoothies, salads and porridge.
- 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds contains about 8 grams of protein and 360 mg of lysine (6).
- Soy milk has slighty nutty taste, it works well with coffee, smoothies and baked goods. It’s often fortified as well with calcium.
- 1 cup of soy milk is about 7.9 grams of protein and 320 mg of lysine (7).
Pea Protein Powder:
- Real foods are always better than powders. However, sometimes convenience trumps. Pea protein can be added to smoothies, oats and baked goods.
- 1 serve is approximately 20 grams of protein and 1600 mg of lysine.
It is easy enough to meet your lysine requirements once you understand what foods are better. Understanding the basics and learning a few easy tips will make putting meals together much easier.
- Eat enough calories each day. If you are not eating enough over a day, you’re not going to meet your nutrient targets whether that is protein, or anything else.
- Consume a variety of foods and include two serves of legumes each day.
Elizabeth is a vegan herself, since 2013. Therefore she lives and breathes plant food. For a consultation to ensure you are doing the right thing for your health, you can book directly online, alternatively contact Elizabeth directly.