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L-Arginine: How to Get This Amino Acid

Updated on November 28, 2013
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Unfortunately, this is also one of the top strategies that people take for granted. Due to today’s fast-paced lifestyle, many people settle for processed foods and junk foods that are nutritionally-deficient and loaded with unhealthy additives like fructose and MSG.

I truly believe that following a well-rounded diet can help fight off illness.

Are You Missing Out on This Amino Acid?

One example of an important nutrient that many people miss out on is L-arginine. It is a precursor to nitric oxide, the gas that plays a vital role in normal cardiovascular function and blood circulation.

L-arginine is considered one of the "semi-essential" amino acids. Your body is able to produce it, but not in sufficient quantities. If you don’t get enough from your diet, you can develop an L-arginine deficiency.

Your body’s L-arginine production depends on your age, overall health, and diet. Your risk for L-arginine deficiency is affected by several factors, such as:

  • Insufficient consumption or improper digestion of protein
  • Genetics (some people have genetic makeups that require higher amounts of L-arginine)
  • Having low antioxidant levels and high free radical levels

Grass-Fed Beef
Grass-Fed Beef

How to Obtain L-Arginine from Your Diet

To ensure that your body gets sufficient levels of L-arginine, you must get enough of it from your diet. Certain foods that contain high amounts of L-arginine include:

  • Nuts, such as walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, almonds, and cashews. I personally enjoy raw almonds nearly every day, as it is an astounding health food. However, make sure you only purchase raw almonds that have not been pasteurized.
  • Dairy products. I recommend consuming raw milk and other dairy products from grass-fed cows. Raw milk contains a wide array of health benefits and medicinal qualities that are not found in pasteurized milk. Pasteurization actually destroys beneficial nutrients and alters the milk molecules.
  • Grass-fed meat. Grass-fed beef, for instance, is higher in certain vitamins and minerals, lower in total fat, and has a more balanced omega-3 to omega-6 ratio than grain-fed beef. It is now more widely available via farmer’s markets, food coops, direct farm-to-consumer sales, and even online.
  • Sesame and sunflower seeds. These seeds are among the best in terms of overall nutritional value. Sprouting sunflower seeds will even augment their nutrient content by as much as 300 to 1,200 percent!
  • Coconut. The “plant of life” offers nutritious coconut meat, coconut oil, and coconut juice, to name a few beneficial byproducts.
  • Seaweed. Spirulina, for instance, is an excellent source of L-arginine.
  • Eggs from free-range chickens. Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Eggs from truly organic, free-range chickens are far less likely to contain dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, and their nutrient content is also much higher than commercially raised eggs.

Increasing your intake of these foods may help optimize your L-arginine levels.

Whole grains like oats, barley, buckwheat, and brown rice also contain considerable amounts of L-arginine. However, I do not advise excessive consumption of grains. Humans are NOT designed to eat grains, and doing so may actually damage your gut.

In addition, Dr. Loren Cordain, a professor at Colorado State University and an expert on Paleolithic lifestyle, says that grains may contain anti-nutrients that can damage your health.

Should You Take an L-Arginine Supplement?

I believe that a healthy diet is the most crucial factor in maintaining optimal health. No amount of supplementation will ever be able to substitute for healthy food choices.

However, there are instances when dietary supplements may prove to be useful. For example, if you often eat processed foods and are not getting enough of the foods mentioned above, then you may want to consider taking an L-arginine supplement.

Find an L-arginine supplement that uses sustained release (timed release) to help control the rate of L-arginine absorption in your body.

Remember that L-arginine formulas vary widely. Find one that contains only natural sources, and has no artificial fillers or additives like magnesium stearate or stearic acid.

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L-Arginine Supplements Are Not for Everyone

You must refrain from taking an L-arginine supplement if you have an active herpes infection (herpes simplex or herpes zoster). People with certain health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, should also take caution when taking this supplement.

The best thing to do is to ask your health care provider if it is safe for you to take an L-arginine supplement.

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