6 Foods That Are Rich in Arginine to Help the Immune System, the Heart and More
Arginine is a term we don’t come across often. Arginine, or L-arginine, is an important amino acid that is imperative for various bodily functions. But, lost in the myriad of scientific mumbo-jumbo, the importance of arginine is never really understood. From giving a boost to your immune system to keeping your heart healthy, a diet rich in arginine is essential for your body to function optimally.
Why Is Arginine Essential?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. In order to be absorbed by our body, amino acids are what proteins are broken down to. Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid. While your body produces enough of it under normal circumstances, it might need supplementation under certain situations. When your body undergoes a trauma, or suffers from an injury, burns, or even a surgical procedure, there is a need for higher amounts of arginine than your body can normally synthesize (1). The most important function of Arginine is that it forms nitrous oxide, which is a vasodilator; it widens the walls of blood vessels. This helps in improved blood flow and maintains your cardiovascular health (2).
Arginine is also responsible for regulating growth hormones and insulin (3), (4). It also helps in tissue regeneration, which keeps your body in working order (5). In addition, it is essential for your immune system because it helps in the production of antibodies as well as their synthesis by stimulating the thymus gland (6).
Foods Rich In Arginine
Research has proved that an arginine-rich diet can have numerous health benefits. Having enough arginine in our food enhances our immune system, improves cardiovascular health, reduces blood pressure, and helps with erectile dysfunction (7). By increasing the intake of certain foods, your everyday diet can more or less provide you with the required amounts of arginine.
The sea lion boasts of being the richest source of arginine – 3400 mg per 100 g (8). But, considering that they are an endangered species, you might want to consider alternatives. Shrimps, crabs, lobsters, tuna, and cod are all excellent sources of arginine (9).
Turkey breasts have the highest concentration of arginine, about 2,096 mg for every 100 g (10). Chicken, quail, and game meat are some other arginine rich foods you may include into your diet.
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3. Red Meat
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By the virtue of being one of the best sources of protein, red meats have a large amount of arginine in them. The highest amount can be found in pork loin (11). Lean cuts of beef come in a close second (12).
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Soy beans, lentils, and chickpeas have the highest concentration of arginine amongst legumes (13). Those who are vegan or vegetarian should include a variety of legumes in their diet.
5. Nuts And Seeds
For those looking for a quick, healthy snack, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts can help you meet your quota of arginine (14).
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Seaweed and spinach are the two veggies you should include in your diet for getting your daily dose of arginine (15).
Caution: While it is not possible to overdose on arginine, it is prudent to keep your intake within the recommended dosage (about 6,000 mg) (16). In healthy individuals, high doses may cause minor gastrointestinal problems. It may also increase the potency of PDE-5 inhibitors such as Viagra (17).
Arginine, in the form of a supplement, shouldn’t be consumed by those with acute herpes simplex, as it might cause the virus to multiply. Those on prescription drugs should check with their doctors before consuming higher amounts of arginine. Higher doses should also be avoided by pregnant/breastfeeding women, those with low blood pressure, allergies or asthma, and kidney disease, along with those who have had a recent surgery or a heart attack (18).
Arginine is crucial when it comes to your overall wellbeing. So make sure you get enough of it for a healthier, better you.