You’ve probably never seen the words ‘high in glutamine’ on food packaging. But this amino acid is vital for good health, immunity, energy and muscle maintenance – so you need to know where it can be found.
What is glutamine?
Glutamine (also known as l-glutamine) is an amino acid. It’s one of a group of 20 amino acids which make up protein within the human body. Together, they help build and maintain your muscles, skin and internal organs.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your bloodstream and performs a variety of biochemical functions, including repairing damaged tissues and healthy cell growth.
There is plenty of scientific evidence that points to glutamine improving digestion and the health of your gut.
Glutamine has also shown in one study to help with wound healing by stimulating collagen growth.1
During the daily functioning of your body, glutamine becomes depleted and must be replaced in the food you eat. We all need it, but people who do strenuous exercise or are recovering from injury surgery would need more glutamine in their diet.
Glutamine has a reputation among fitness enthusiasts who use it to help speed up muscle repair, muscle growth and muscle recovery following exercise.
Where can I find glutamine in foods?
Seawater fish and crustaceans are very rich in glutamine. This includes sardines, crab, lobster, shrimps and prawns.
One of the healthiest foods out there, red cabbage has vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and vitamin B6. It also boasts high levels of glutamine and is widely used traditionally an anti-inflammatory gut-healing remedy.
Finely shred red cabbage into salads and into slaws, as the benefits are greater if it’s eaten raw.
Dairy such as milk and yoghurt
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in milk protein, so getting a serving of dairy each day will top up your glutamine levels.
The perfect food for people who exercise daily, eggs provide a good dose of glutamine as well as selenium, vitamin K, vitamin D and B vitamins.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are another key food for exercise as they offer protein and energy as well as tissue repair and recovery. They are rich in glutamine, too.
A handful of almonds, cashews, walnuts or pistachios along with a piece of fruit are perfect fuel before exercise. Stock up on bags of pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and linseeds which are ideal for adding to smoothies and sprinkling over oats.
Just don’t eat too many – as well as being nutrient dense, they’re calorie dense.
This legume, which is available in dried form in some supermarkets and all health food shops, is high in glutamine. If you aren’t sure what to do with them – don’t worry! Many vegetarian and vegan products are made from soya beans, including tofu, tempeh and soya milk. Soya beans are also available in roasted form, ideal for snacking.
Other high-glutamine legumes include lentils, peas and chickpeas.
Dark leafy greens
Dark, leafy green vegetables including spinach, kale and parsley pack in a surprisingly high amount of glutamine. Try including a spinach, kale and parsley side salad with dinner – or you could add them together in a smoothie with your favourite fruit to balance out the bitter taste.
Last updated: 6 May 2020