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What Are Common Foods with Methionine?

Malysa Stratton Louk
Malysa Stratton Louk

Methionine is one of nine essential amino acids the body does not create on its own. It must instead be absorbed into the body by eating foods containing methionine. Meat, eggs, dairy and other animal sources provide the highest methionine quantities. Other foods with methionine include some vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Natural food sources are best for obtaining the required amino acids, however, some people may require supplements if they are not able to eat enough foods with methionine and other essential amino acids.

The highest amounts of natural methionine are found in egg whites, chicken breast, turkey and fish. The most common food with methionine in the highest amounts is egg white, either dried or fresh. Not all fish varieties contain high levels of this essential amino acid. Alaskan halibut cooked with the skin on contains the highest amount of methionine out of all the different types of fish. Tuna, ling, Northern pike, Pacific and Atlantic cod, haddock, cusk, sunfish and dolphinfish all contain more than 1,200 mg of methionine per serving.

Legumes are a good source of methionine.
Legumes are a good source of methionine.

Cheese products such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, cheddar and Parmesan also are high in methionine. Several green leafy vegetables, some more common than others, are high in the essential amino acid. Seaweed has the highest amount of all vegetables, although more common foods with methionine include turnip greens, spinach, zucchini, mushrooms and asparagus. Less commonly used vegetables include pumpkin leaves, bamboo shoots and taro leaves. Some vegetables have higher methionine levels when they are eaten raw, while others increase in value by being cooked.

Dolphinfish contain methionine.
Dolphinfish contain methionine.

Nuts, seeds and legumes are common foods containing methionine, although the levels per serving are not as high as those found in animal and vegetable sources. Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts and roasted pumpkin seeds contain adequate levels of methionine. Most of these can be used in their natural form or as flour to retain their methionine levels.

Grilled zucchini, which contains methionine.
Grilled zucchini, which contains methionine.

Kidney beans, white beans and black beans are other common foods with methionine. Soybeans and products made from soy — such as textured soy protein, soy sauce, soy flour and tofu — provide higher levels of methionine than other beans and nuts, providing a minimum of 300 mg per serving. Soy protein is commonly used in methionine and amino acid supplements when foods with methionine do not provide the necessary levels in a person’s diet.

What Plant Foods Are High in Methionine?

Eggs contain a lot of methionine.
Eggs contain a lot of methionine.

Since methionine is primarily found in animal-sourced foods, it can be a little challenging for vegans to get enough jn their diets. Some plant-based sources were mentioned earlier, including leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes. Meanwhile, there are lots of other plant-based methionine-containing foods:

You probably noticed that all these are grain-derived foods. If you deal with celiac disease or experience other negative health effects from gluten, you're in luck. Quinoa, buckwheat, oats and brown rice are all gluten-free.

Salmon naturally contains methionine.
Salmon naturally contains methionine.

Don't forget about other plant seeds that excel in methionine content. Examples include sesame, pumpkin, chia and hemp seeds. Besides methionine, you'll find other key nutrients such as fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and essential minerals like iron and potassium.

What Is Methionine?

To understand the importance of methionine in human diets, you should know what it does. Your body uses amino acids like methionine and cysteine to synthesize proteins that help compose your body's tissues and organs. Moreover, methionine is needed to make new proteins as old ones inside your body break down. This contributes to healing damaged muscles.

Kidney beans are a good source of methionine.
Kidney beans are a good source of methionine.

Like cysteine, methionine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that's also used to create sulfuric molecules such as glutathione and taurine. Glutathione is both an amino acid and an antioxidant that aids key functions such as metabolizing nutrients and fighting off oxidative stress. Taurine is also a multifunction amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter, encourages nerve growth, regulates calcium levels and balances out electrolytes, among other things.

Parmesan cheese is high in methionine.
Parmesan cheese is high in methionine.

Methionine, cysteine, glutathione and taurine are also needed for proper cell functioning, DNA modification and tissue protection. Unlike cysteine, however, methionine can't be produced by the human body. Ironically, you need methionine for your body to even produce cysteine — and in turn, cysteine is required to create glutathione and taurine. Methionine is the essential amino acid at the root of all these processes.

What Are Symptoms of Methionine Deficiency?

Tofu is high in methionine.
Tofu is high in methionine.

Methionine deficiency isn't common, but vegans are the most at risk. Without this critical amino acid, your body can't produce proteins, carry out metabolic functions and maintain its overall health. You may want to watch out for some common methionine deficiency symptoms:

  • Poor skin tone
  • Rapid hair loss
  • Lethargy and apathy
  • Swelling and fluid retention
  • Muscle loss and weakness

Getting Enough Methionine

Sunflower seeds contain methionine.
Sunflower seeds contain methionine.

Humans need about 14 milligrams of methionine for every kilogram of body weight. For instance, a person weighing 90 kilograms should eat 1,260 milligrams per day. So, how would our 90-kilogram individual get those 1.2 grams from plant-based foods? With such a wide range of non-animal methionine sources available, the key is eating a diet with lots of variety.

Natural methionine is found in chicken breast.
Natural methionine is found in chicken breast.

People switching to vegan diets quickly learn that they must eat a large selection of foods to get their vital nutrients. You may notice many vegan recipes containing seitan, a plant-based protein from vital wheat gluten. It's in several commercially available meat analog products. In its basic form, seitan has a mild flavor that proves versatile in many kinds of cuisines. Other great combinations to get in your daily methionine allowance include lentils with spinach, tofu with spinach, peanuts with sesame seeds and black beans with corn.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Methionine can be found in roasted pumpkin seeds.
Methionine can be found in roasted pumpkin seeds.

You may have heard of high-methionine diets as the "next big thing" in nutrition. But there's one caveat: You can ingest too much methionine. That probably won't be a thing if you're vegan or if you're eating a healthy diet overall. It gets a little stickier when you add methionine supplements. Too much can cause minor side effects of dizziness and blood pressure changes in healthy individuals. Consult a doctor before taking methionine supplements.

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    • Legumes are a good source of methionine.
      Legumes are a good source of methionine.
    • Dolphinfish contain methionine.
      Dolphinfish contain methionine.
    • Grilled zucchini, which contains methionine.
      Grilled zucchini, which contains methionine.
    • Eggs contain a lot of methionine.
      By: Elenathewise
      Eggs contain a lot of methionine.
    • Salmon naturally contains methionine.
      By: andersphoto
      Salmon naturally contains methionine.
    • Kidney beans are a good source of methionine.
      By: Lusoimages
      Kidney beans are a good source of methionine.
    • Parmesan cheese is high in methionine.
      By: Bert Folsom
      Parmesan cheese is high in methionine.
    • Tofu is high in methionine.
      By: M.studio
      Tofu is high in methionine.
    • Sunflower seeds contain methionine.
      By: eyewave
      Sunflower seeds contain methionine.
    • Natural methionine is found in chicken breast.
      By: Christian Jung
      Natural methionine is found in chicken breast.
    • Methionine can be found in roasted pumpkin seeds.
      By: areif
      Methionine can be found in roasted pumpkin seeds.
    • Bamboo shoots are a source of methionine.
      By: Bert Folsom
      Bamboo shoots are a source of methionine.
    • Cottage cheese is high in methionine.
      By: nata777_7
      Cottage cheese is high in methionine.
    • Taro stems and leaves have a high methionine content.
      By: Le Do
      Taro stems and leaves have a high methionine content.