Proteins are the building blocks of our body, which are made up of 20 different amino acids. Of these 20 amino acids, half are known as essential amino acids, while the rest are called non-essential amino acids. The non-essential amino acids are produced by the body itself, which is why we do not need to furnish the body with them additionally. On the other hand, essential amino acids are those amino acids that are not produced by the body and need to be provided to the body, on a timely basis by eating foods rich in them. One such essential amino acid required by the body is Lysine, or L-lysine, which needs to be attained from lysine rich foods.
What is Lysine?
Lysine plays a significant role in overall growth of the body and also helps in carnitine (component that helps lower cholesterol) production. Moreover, it also helps absorb calcium from the body, thereby helping in retaining calcium. This helps strengthen the bones and teeth and prevent osteoporosis. Lysine plays a significant role in collagen formation, which happens to be an important component of connective tissues like the skin, cartilage and the tendon. This is because lysine produces allysine, a derivative in the body, which aids in collages and elastin production.
Let's not forget how lysine is important for muscle building, injury recovery and the production of enzymes and hormones. It is also known to be effective in treating cold sores and herpes simplex infections. During times of physical stress and strain, as in the case of an athletes body, intense training sessions and workouts causes the body to use up more lysine. Loss of too much lysine can result in cannibalization of body muscle tissues, thus, athletes need to have lysine supplements to avoid any such circumstances.
List of Lysine Rich Foods
The different food items rich in lysine content are as follows:
➢ Legumes (Lentils, beans, peas)
➢ Soybean products (Tofu, soy milk)
➢ Fenugreek seeds
➢ Seaweed (Spirulina)
➢ Cheese (Parmesan, Gruyere, Edam, Gouda)
➢ Plain skim yogurt
➢ Dried fruit (Figs)
➢ Brewer's yeast
➢ Tomato, carrot or orange juice
➢ Fruits (Pears, apricots, mangoes, bananas and apples)
➢ Vegetables (pumpkin, peas, beets,cauliflower, celery)
➢ Nuts (cashew nuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans)
For Non Vegetarians
➢ Fish (sardines, cod, flounder)
➢ Shellfish (Shrimp, Oysters)
While the above-mentioned list consists of food items high in lysine, there are some from the list which contain more arginine content than lysine. During conditions like cold sores, these arginine levels have to be kept under control. Thus, even though lysine is present in nuts like walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc. they have to be avoided for faster recovery from cold sores. Shellfish should also be avoided. Consume more of dairy, soybean and meat products to counter the high arginine levels.
Symptoms of Lysine Deficiency
When one does not consume enough lysine rich foods, a lysine deficiency may develop. The symptoms of lysine deficiency are as follows:
- Hair Loss
- Appetite Loss
- Inability to concentrate
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Bloodshot eyes
- Kidney stone formation
- Reproductive disorders
- Stunted growth
Lysine is a safe amino acid that helps build, heal and restore the body parts. However, people taking lysine supplements need to be cautious. With lysine supplement intake, there lies the danger of an overdose. This overdose triggers side effects like diarrhea, stomach cramps, gallstone formation, rise in blood cholesterol levels, etc. When had in appropriate amounts, lysine is safe and only benefits the body in several ways.
Generally non-vegetarian people do not encounter lysine deficiencies. It's the vegans that do not get adequate amount of lysine from their diet. They can easily solve this problem by consuming lysine supplements. Lysine rich foods are to be consumed on a daily basis so as to furnish the body with a constant supply of lysine. Lack of appropriate levels of lysine simply results in several health problems, moreover, having excess of it also triggers side effects. Maintaining the balance is the key to good health. People taking supplements should only take them after consulting their health care provider.