A lot of people have never heard of arginine, yet it is a chemical our bodies produce naturally. This amino acid is a building block that helps create proteins. It stimulates the release of insulin and gets rid of ammonia. Most importantly, the body uses arginine to make nitric oxide. Children need arginine to help them grow and develop. In adults, it helps improves blood flow, heals wounds, and repair damaged tissue. The good news is that arginine is found in many foods, so it is easy to increase your intake when your body needs more.

How Arginine Works

Also known as L-arginine, the amino acid converts into nitric oxide, a powerful neurotransmitter that causes blood vessels to widen and relax, improving circulation and blood flow. It also plays a major role in how the body disposes of waste. Arginine helps produce urea, the end product from the break down of proteins that forms urine.

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Arginine Benefits the Heart

Studies suggest arginine helps alleviate symptoms of various heart conditions. Improved circulation can reduce the effects of angina, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. Arginine can also help correct impotence. Erectile dysfunction is often the result of a problem with blood vessels, and arginine helps increase blood flow to the penis, making it easier to maintain an erection.

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Other Health Benefits

Research into the benefits of arginine is still ongoing. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest the amino acid

  • helps the kidneys function more efficiently
  • aids in wound healing
  • boosts the immune system
  • balances hormones

Researchers are hoping to discover even more beneficial properties of arginine.

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How Much Arginine Do We Need?

Experts do not know enough yet about the daily required amounts of arginine for the average adult. The majority of us produce enough arginine naturally for everyday living. However, health issues can lead to a need for supplementation if the body does not make enough or requires more than average. Young bodies, however, do not make enough arginine naturally, so even healthy children require more from their diet to ensure healthy growth and development.

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Supplements vs. Natural Sources

There are plenty of arginine supplements on the market but most adults do not require them. Over-large doses of arginine can lead to undesirable side effects and increase the risk of interaction with blood pressure or diabetes medications. Plenty of foods provide arginine naturally. By introducing high-protein produce into your diet, you and your children will safely and healthily receive any additional arginine you require.

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Side Effects of Supplements

Taking supplements forces the body to ingest a large amount of arginine in one hit. Long-term daily use can lead to side effects such as abdominal pain, bloating, gout, diarrhea, and nausea, and can exacerbate asthma symptoms. High doses also increase stomach acid, causing heartburn and ulcers. Getting arginine from natural sources eliminates these risks.

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Natural Sources of Arginine

Luckily, arginine exists in a wide range of foods. Meat, fish, dairy, nuts, and whole grains all contain this amino acid. They are also rich in complex carbs, fiber, protein, and healthy fats, making them great for overall health. Just one cooked turkey breast provides more than half an ounce of arginine. Plus turkey is low in calories and contains other vital nutrients such as B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

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Healthy Meats, Fish, and Dairy Products

Protein-rich white meat is a great source of arginine. Chicken contains almost 3 grams per cup. Crustaceans such as lobster, crab, and shrimp are not as high in the amino acid, but still provide a supplementary amount. Tuna and salmon also contain arginine, as do dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.

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Nuts and Seeds

Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and almonds all contain arginine. Peanuts are nutritious and tasty, and they contain more antioxidants than green tea and red wine. They also provide sufficient protein and vitamins B3, E, niacin, and folate. Nuts are also high in fat, however, and so should make up only a small portion of the diet.

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Mix Up a Smoothie

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that grows naturally in the ocean and is available in powdered form in many health stores. It contains many nutrients and is often added to smoothies. In addition to providing calcium, potassium, iron, and niacin, it is high in arginine.

spirulina smoothie healthy arginine

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