Arginine is an amino acid that plays a role in cell division and protein synthesis. Therefore, sufficient amounts of arginine must be obtained from the diet. Daily needs for arginine should be assessed based on gender, geography, usual diet and nitrogen balance. For instance, it would be wise to increase arginine intake during periods of positive nitrogen balance β periods of growth, such as during childhood and pregnancy, when your body is actively using amino acid building blocks to synthesize proteins.
High-dose arginine supplements are already available in the market. However, if you are inclined toward more natural ways of obtaining adequate arginine, the way to go is still to consume the best food sources of this amino acid. The protein contents of these foods typically show higher ratios of arginine compared to other amino acids.
1. Red Meat
Meats of high biological value remain the best overall source of proteins and all the amino acids, including arginine. However, significantly increasing meat consumption in order to increase the arginine content of the diet places undue stress on the liver and kidneys. Furthermore, the usually high-fat content of meat puts you at risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Among all plant products, nuts are probably the richest sources of arginine, containing from about 1 to 3 g of arginine per 100 g. The best nut sources of arginine are peanuts (3.1 g per 100 g), almonds (2.5 g per 100 g), walnuts (2.3 g per 100 g), hazelnuts (2.2 g per 100 g) and cashews (2.1 g per 100 g). Other nuts that are rich in arginine include Brazil nuts, pistachios and pecans.
3. Spinach and Lentils
Vegetables are not very good sources of protein, in general, and arginine, in particular. Probably the most notable exceptions to the rule are spinach and lentils. Frozen spinach has an arginine content of 3.3 g per 100 g, while lentils have about 2.1 g of arginine per 100 g of the raw vegetable.
4. Whole Grains
Breads and pastas made from whole grain wheat flour are rich in arginine. Among cereal grains, whole wheat has the highest content of arginine, containing about 650 mg of arginine per 100 g.
Soy-based proteins are among the richest food sources of arginine. A 200-calorie serving of soy protein isolate has more than 4 g of arginine. Quite surprisingly, 100 g of tofu has only 600 mg of arginine, even if it is principally derived from soybeans.
Aside from red meat, crustaceans are the best animal-based sources of arginine. A 200-calorie serving of crabs, shrimps or lobsters typically has from 3.6 to 3.8 g of arginine. Fish with the highest content of arginine are tuna (1.7 g per 100 g) and salmon (1.2 g per 100 g). Some sources have placed the arginine content of tuna as being even greater than that of chicken and pork.
Eggs, particularly the yolk, are also rich sources of arginine. A raw egg yolk contains 1.10 g of arginine per 100 g, while a raw egg white contains 0.65 g per 100 g.