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D-arginine and L-arginine are the two forms of arginine amino acid, one of the twenty amino acids that constitute protein. L-arginine is a more compatible form of arginine and it can be synthesized in our body. Newborn infants cannot produce L-arginine and are dependent on the food for it. Approximately 80 percent of the required amino acids are produced by the liver. Arginine is one of the 'nonessential' amino acids. It is called non-essential not because it lacks importance, but because the body can synthesize it from other amino acids obtained from dietary sources. Body's ability to synthesize and use all amino acids varies according to the age and overall physical and mental health. Scientists are studying the effects of foods high in arginine on human body, for the last fifty years.

Benefits of Arginine

L-arginine, a precursor of nitric oxide, plays an important role in releasing vital hormones, boosting the immune system, synthesizing various protein molecules, lowering cholesterol, speeding recovery after surgery or injury, reducing accumulation of ammonia and plasma lactate, decreasing blood pressure, stimulating sexuality, burning fat and increasing lean muscle mass etc. The amino acid helps beat hot flashes as it contains nitric oxide that ensures flexibility of blood vessel linings and promotes the function of the underlying muscles, making women feel normal again.

L-arginine rich foods or supplements help stimulate and maintain erection and promote healthy ejaculate volume in men. This amino acid is prescribed by doctors for healthy weight loss, body building and fertility and it is used to relieve arthritis pain. It is also used to treat Alzheimer's disease, cancers, inherited urea cycle disorders, liver disorders, etc. Do you know that amino acid therapies are suggested to prevent aging and heart diseases? They have been used successfully for controlling stress, eliminating depression and enhancing memory. These therapies work great to reduce herpes, manage allergies, improve sleep, arrest alcohol abuse and enhance hair growth. Foods high in arginine when included in the regular diet can help improve your health in several ways.

Foods High in Arginine

FoodServing Size (g)Free Arginine (mg)
Sesame Seeds1503,750
Pumpkin Seeds1403,040
Macadamia Nuts135770
Brazil Nuts1402,595
Hazelnuts1352,020
Pistachios1301155
Pine Nuts301,075
Almonds1452,600
Walnuts1002,055
Squash, winter205690
Snails85850
Pecans110875
Wheat Germ180460
Peanut Butter15437
Shredded Coconut80320
Bran Flakes50140

The following table shows the amount of arginine you get after consuming 100 g of foods high in arginine.

Food (100 g)Arginine
Peanut Flour, defatted6 g
Soy Protein Isolate6 g
Unsweetened Gelatin, dry powder6 g
Sunflower Seed Flour, partially defatted5 g
Dried Egg White4 g
Dried Spirulina, seaweed4 g
Dried Butternuts4 g
Watermelon Seed Kernels4 g
Roasted Cottonseed Kernels4 g

Arginine is present in buckwheat, oatmeal, cottage cheese, ricotta, non-fat dry milk, skim yogurt, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, pheasant, quail, halibut, lobster, salmon, shrimp, snails, tuna, granola, chickpeas, chocolate, cooked soybeans and many other food items. But, arginine and lysine (another amino acid that protects us from viruses) compete with each other for assimilation and both accompany each other, in virtually all foods. Neither of them can be assimilated very well when you eat both at the same time. You should eat foods rich in arginine, two hours apart from lysine rich foods so as to get the best results. Consult your physician before taking arginine (amino acid) supplements or before opting for foods that provide arginine; as wrong way of arginine intake can lead to some disorders or further complications.

L-Arginine Side Effects

L-arginine causes malfunctioning of lysine which is required to control viral infections. Pregnant and lactating women should be cautious with their arginine intake and dosage. Thickening and coarsening of skin are some of the common side effects of L-arginine. Excessive consumption of the amino acid can result in nausea, gastrointestinal disorders or diarrhea are noticed. Delay in sexual maturity, impairment of the production of insulin and glucose, muscle weakness, rash, hair loss, poor wound healing and liver problems are usually noticed in case of arginine deficiency.

I hope the above article provides you sufficient information on arginine and on the benefits of incorporating foods rich in arginine in your diet. Plan your diet carefully and enjoy a healthy life.