Lysine: Why This Amino Acid Is Important for Vegans and Vegetarians

Lysine is an amino acid that’s hard to get from a vegan and vegetarian diet. It’s considered essential because your body can not make it from other amino acids, so you must get it from the food that you eat.

Why You Need It

Like every other amino acid, lysine is important. Your body depends on it for growth (super important for children). It’s also needed for healthy bones, to produce energy (important for all your muscles, including the heart), and to create collagen, cartilage, and connective tissues (like skin).

Healthy Bones

Because it helps your body absorb calcium, this essential amino acid helps build and maintain strong bones. And it helps to prevent osteoporosis.

Your Body Uses it to Make Carnitine – Important For Heart Health and Weight Loss

Carnitine is a non-essential amino acid. It’s well known for heart health and as a weight loss supplement.

You can get carnitine from eating certain foods, and your body can create it from a combination of lysine and methionine.

Carnitine is critical for heart health. If you have a deficiency, it usually affects the heart first. It’s also important for energy production as it helps turn fat into energy. This is part of the reason why carnitine gets marketed as a weight loss supplement. Some studies have shown that carnitine supplements can help reduce fat (as it burns it for energy), increase muscle mass, and reduce fatigue, which can help some people lose weight.

To get more carnitine, combine foods high in lysine (eggs, quinoa, soy) with those that contain methionine (avocado, ricotta cheese, and wheat germ). You can also consume vegetarian foods that contain both, like cottage cheese and eggs.

May Help With Cold Sores and Genital Herpes

Some people find lysine supplements help lessen the severity or duration of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of herpes virus. Herpes simplex 1 causes cold sores (blisters) around the mouth, and herpes simplex 2 causes genital herpes (the most common sexually transmitted disease).

If you choose to supplement, only do so under the guidance of a qualified doctor who can monitor your amino acid levels. Taking too much of one amino acid will cause a deficiency in another. So while you may resolve one issue, another one will develop.

What Happens if You’re Deficient in Lysine

Signs of a deficiency include the following:

  • Slow growth (again, making this amino acid even more essential for children)
  • Dizziness, nausea, and fatigue
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Anemia

Best Food Sources

While there are vegetarian and vegan food sources of lysine, those sources do not provide a great deal of this important amino acid. The best sources are listed below.

  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Quinoa
  • Spirulina,
  • Soy products, (like tempeh and tofu), and
  • Fenugreek seed.


A vegetarian or vegan diet has many health advantages, but possible nutritional deficiencies do exist. Be sure to be aware of all of them and plan your meals accordingly.


  • Eric R. Braverman, M.D., The Healing Nutrients Within, (CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc. 2003)
  • University of Maryland Medical Center, L-Carnitine
  • University of Maryland Medical Center, Lysine

Vegetarian & Vegan

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© 2021 Living Well Health Coach

Disclaimer: The information on this site is for information purposes only. It is not intended to replace your healthcare professional or provide diagnosis or treatment.