Glutamine is an important amino acid that plays several key roles in the body. As one of the most abundant amino acids, glutamine is involved in immune function, protein synthesis, acid-base balance, and more. Getting enough glutamine from your diet is crucial for optimal health.
So what foods contain the most glutamine? Let’s take a detailed look at the top dietary sources of this critical amino acid.
What is Glutamine?
Glutamine is classified as a non-essential amino acid, meaning the body can synthesize it on its own. However, during times of stress or injury, the demand for glutamine increases so that the body cannot produce enough. For this reason, glutamine is considered a “conditionally essential” amino acid.
Glutamine plays several vital roles:
- Protein synthesis – Glutamine is needed to make proteins and grow new muscle tissue.
- Fuel for cells – Many cells, like immune cells and intestinal cells, use glutamine for energy.
- Stomach health – Glutamine promotes the health of the cells lining the stomach and intestals.
- Neurotransmitter production – Glutamine is needed to make the key neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate.
- Acid-base balance – Glutamine helps regulate pH balance by transporting ammonia.
- Antioxidant function – This amino acid helps produce glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant.
Supplement forms of glutamine, such as L-glutamine powders, are popular with athletes and those recovering from injuries or surgeries.
Top 10 Food Sources of Glutamine
Many protein-rich foods contain glutamine. The best sources provide substantial amounts of glutamine per serving.
Here are the top 10 glutamine foods ranked by glutamine content in milligrams (mg) per 100 grams of food:
|Food||Glutamine (mg per 100g)|
As you can see, cheese varieties like parmesan, cottage, and ricotta provide the most glutamine per gram. Milk, yogurt, and lean meats like chicken and beef are also excellent sources.
Detailed Glutamine Content of Top Foods
Let’s take a more in-depth look at the top 5 dietary sources of glutamine.
1. Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan cheese is one of the most glutamine-rich foods available. A 100 gram serving provides:
- 1400 mg glutamine
- 37 grams protein
- 28% DV calcium
As a hard Italian cheese, parmesan is a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids. It’s an excellent source of bone-building calcium too.
Grating just 1 ounce (28g) of parmesan over pasta dishes, salads, and soups provides nearly 400 mg glutamine.
2. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a soft, mild cheese often used in cooking and dips. A 100 gram serving supplies:
- 1100 mg glutamine
- 11 grams protein
- 6% DV calcium
Cottage cheese provides casein, a slow-digesting milk protein that sustains steady amino acid levels for hours. Mix it with fruit for a high protein breakfast or snack.
Plain milk is higher in glutamine than other dairy products. In 100 grams of 2% milk you get:
- 900 mg glutamine
- 3.4 grams protein
- 30% DV calcium
Milk provides a trio of glutamine-rich proteins – casein, whey, and alpha-lactalbumin. For a lactose-free option, try A2 milk which is easier to digest.
4. Plain Yogurt
Yogurt made from milk is an excellent source of glutamine. A 100 gram serving of plain yogurt offers:
- 600 mg glutamine
- 5 grams protein
- 15% DV calcium
Greek yogurt is ideal since it’s higher in protein. Top your yogurt with fresh fruit, nuts, and seeds for extra nutrition.
5. Chicken Breast
Chicken is one of the best meat sources of glutamine. A 100 gram serving of cooked chicken breast has:
- 590 mg glutamine
- 31 grams protein
- 3% DV calcium
Chicken breast is over 90% protein by calories with minimal fat. It’s the go-to protein for athletes and dieters.
Other Dietary Sources of Glutamine
In addition to the top sources above, other high protein foods contain decent amounts of glutamine:
All cuts of beef are high in glutamine. A 100 gram serving of lean ground beef provides 510 mg glutamine and 26 grams protein.
Pork is an especially glutamine-rich meat. You get 500 mg glutamine and 27 grams protein in 100 grams of boneless pork loin.
Fish like salmon and tuna contain 300-400 mg glutamine per 100 gram serving, along with 20-25 grams protein.
Kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils supply 200-300 mg glutamine per cooked 100 gram serving.
Nuts and Seeds
Pumpkin seeds, almonds, and peanuts contain 170-200 mg glutamine per 100 grams.
Glutamine is found in whole grains like oats (190 mg per 100g) and brown rice (150 mg per 100g).
Should You Take a Glutamine Supplement?
Healthy people eating a balanced, high protein diet typically get enough glutamine from food sources. But supplements may benefit:
- Athletes – For muscle recovery after intense workouts.
- Post-surgical patients – To aid healing and prevent infections.
- Critically ill people – To help prevent muscle wasting when hospitalized.
- Those with leaky gut syndrome – Glutamine promotes gut barrier health.
Glutamine powders and capsules are available online or at health food stores. Follow dosage on the label or your healthcare provider’s recommendation.
Is Glutamine Safe?
Consuming glutamine from dietary protein foods is safe for healthy people. Higher intakes from supplements are also generally well tolerated.
Possible side effects of very high glutamine intakes can include:
- Intestinal discomfort like diarrhea
- Muscle cramps
Glutamine may be unsafe for those with kidney disease, liver disease, Reye’s syndrome, or certain genetic disorders like Maple Syrup Urine Disease.
Due to lack of safety research, glutamine supplements are not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
How Much Glutamine Per Day Do You Need?
There is no official Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for glutamine intake.
Healthy adults eating a normal diet easily obtain 3 to 6 grams of glutamine per day from protein-rich foods. Higher intakes of up to 40 grams daily have been used safely in research studies for 6 months or longer.
Athletes are advised to consume 3 to 5 grams of supplemental glutamine per day. Those recovering from major surgery may need up to 0.5 grams per kg of body weight.
Consult your doctor to determine the appropriate glutamine dosage for your needs.
Maximizing Glutamine in Your Diet
Follow these tips to get enough glutamine from your regular diet:
- Eat high-protein foods – Include glutamine-rich protein at every meal like Greek yogurt at breakfast, cottage cheese snacks, chicken in your salads, and salmon for dinner.
- Combine proteins – Pair plant and animal proteins like beans with cheese or peanut butter with milk to get a variety of amino acids.
- Avoid sugar – High sugar diets can deplete glutamine levels.
- Manage stress – Chronic stress increases glutamine requirements so relax with yoga, meditation, or massage.
- Supplement if needed – Consider L-glutamine supplements if recovering from surgery, during intense training, or on a low-calorie weight loss diet.
The Bottom Line
Glutamine is a vital amino acid for immune health, gut function, and protein synthesis. Nutrient-dense whole foods like cheese, yogurt, milk, lean meats and plant proteins offer the most dietary glutamine.
Getting adequate glutamine from your diet supports muscle growth, recovery, and overall wellness. Supplements provide a convenient way to increase glutamine intake as needed.
Aim for at least 3 to 6 grams of glutamine per day from high quality protein foods. Speak with your healthcare provider if you are interested in supplementation for sports performance, post-surgery healing, or other specific health goals.