Protein is made up of amino acids, some of which your body can manufacture on its own. Nine of them, however, called essential amino acids, must come from food. You need more lysine than any of the other essential amino acids. The Institute of Medicine recommends you get 51 milligrams of lysine for each gram of protein you take in. It also recommends that women get about 46 grams of protein a day, so the ideal daily lysine intake is 2.3 grams.
Meat and Poultry
The richest sources of lysine are the foods highest in protein. One serving of beef, pork or poultry provides all the lysine you need for the day. A 6-ounce porterhouse steak has 3.8 grams of lysine. A 5-ounce pork chop has 2.2 grams of lysine, while half of a cooked chicken breast has 2.3 grams of lysine. Each of these foods provides more than the recommended 51 milligrams of lysine per gram of protein. Fish also contains lysine. A 3-ounce serving of baked cod has 1.8 grams of lysine, providing 78 percent of your daily requirement.
Eggs and Dairy
If you do not eat meat, but eat dairy, you can get lysine from eggs and dairy products. A poached egg has about 0.5 gram of lysine, while a cup of low-fat yogurt has more than a gram. An 8-ounce glass of skim milk provides about 0.7 gram of lysine, so an egg, a yogurt parfait or a bowl of cereal can help you get an adequate amount of this amino acid.
Nuts and Beans
You can also get lysine from nuts and legumes. Soybeans are rich in protein and provide ample lysine, so soy products are reliable sources. About 3.25 ounces of tofu have nearly 0.5 gram of lysine. An ounce of roasted pistachios has 0.35 gram of lysine, and an ounce of almonds or walnuts contains a little more than 0.1 gram of lysine. Snacking on nuts and legumes can supplement your diet with lysine and help you increase your overall protein intake.
Fruits and Vegetables
Because fruits and vegetables are generally low in protein, they don't contain much lysine, but you can get supplemental amounts of this amino acid from them. A 2-cup bowl of cantaloupe cubes has about 3 grams of protein and 100 milligrams of lysine, providing less than 5 percent of the lysine you need daily. A sliced avocado has 4 grams of protein and more than twice as much lysine as 2 cups of cantaloupe, with 265 milligrams.
- USDA Nutrient Database: Porterhouse Steak, Cooked
- USDA Nutrient Database: Pork Loin, Roasted
- USDA Nutrient Database: Stewed Chicken Breast
- MayoClinic.com: Are Chicken Eggs Good or Bad for My Cholesterol?
- USDA Nutrient Database: Tofu, Firm
- USDA Nutrient Database: Pistachios, Roasted
- USDA Nutrient Database: Walnuts, English
- USDA Nutrient Database: Cod, Cooked
Maia Appleby is a NASM-certified personal trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry. Her articles have been published in a wide variety of print magazines and online publications, including the Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, New Moon Network and Bodybuilding.com.