You’ve got a balanced diet focused on macros, but have you considered Taurine? Most people don’t know about this non-essential amino acid. Those who know about it, don’t think it’s necessary to supplement because of its “non-essential” status.
The truth is, although the body of a healthy adult can make Taurine at decent levels, vegans, and infants may need to eat foods rich in this amino acid. Here is everything you need to know about the foods highest in taurine and how to include them in your diet.
What Is Taurine?
Taurine is a non-essential amino acid. What this means is that your body can produce it on its own, but in the case of deficiency there are other natural sources for it.
Taurine is found naturally within your cells and has many essential functions in both health maintenance as well as disease treatment (10):
- Regulates internal water levels (osmotic pressure)
- Controls muscle contractions & relaxations
- Aids bile salt formation
- Aids cell membrane stabilization by forming lipid layers around them which also help protect tissues from oxidative stressors
- Helps treat certain types of epilepsy where normal anticonvulsant medications don’t work or have too severe side effects.
Health Benefits Of Taurine
Although your body can make this amino acid, adding more taurine to your diet can have health benefits such as:
Lower Risk Of Diabetes
Taurine is necessary for insulin production and function (16).
Insulin regulates glucose levels in the blood, which can help lower your risk of developing diabetes (16).
Supporting Heart Health
Taurine has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by dilating the arteries, normalizing blood pressure, improving blood flow, and effectively reducing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (15).
Studies indicate that taurine can manage cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which reduces fat buildup in arteries and lowers your risk of developing heart problems (15).
Increasing Muscle Endurance
Taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids in muscle, and it may prevent oxidative stress from exercise (13).
It may increase endurance by enhancing fat oxidation (the process that breaks down fats) during exercise to provide fuel for muscles; this means less reliance on glycogen stores which are limited and require more energy to break apart than fatty acid chains. This also helps regulate body temperature as taurine improves sweating efficiency while exercising (13).
Read More: Cardiovascular Endurance Exercises To Do At Home
Signs Of Taurine Deficiency
Most healthy adults produce sufficient taurine on their own, but some populations, such as infants, require a taurine-rich diet.
Other people at risk of taurine deficiency include those with obesity, diabetes, or alcohol dependence and people who take medications that inhibit taurine production (12).
If you notice any of these symptoms in your body after long periods without eating meat (especially red meat) it could be due to a lack of this amino acid (12):
- Bitter taste in mouth
- Urine turns dark brown
- Concentrated urine smells like ammonia
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle cramps and spasms in arms and legs
In most cases, taurine deficiency can be treated with a high-taurine diet. However, if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, the deficiency should not be self-treated without the supervision of a doctor.
10 Foods High In Taurine
Shrimp, clams, and oysters are great sources of taurine. They’re also loaded with selenium, which is an important antioxidant for your thyroid gland (11).
It’s a good idea to eat liver at least a few times per week, as it is one of the best sources for vitamin B12. Liver also has plenty of taurine and other nutrients that are great for your body.
Other organ meats (such as brains, kidneys, and the heart) are also good sources for taurine.
Eggs are one of the few protein sources that some vegans eat that’s high in taurine.
More than half of an egg is composed of water, but eggs also contain a lot more. Eggs boast four grams per serving – or about 20 percent – which translates to 200 milligrams for the whole thing (3)! That means your morning omelet will provide you with 40 percent of your daily allowance without you even realizing it.
And don’t worry too much about cholesterol; there is now evidence that for most people, dietary cholesterol has a much smaller impact on blood lipids than does the overall mix of fats in the diet (3). In fact, research has shown that when people eat two eggs every day (including their yolks) they see a dramatic decrease in heart disease and diabetes risk factors as well as lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels compared to those who don’t.
In addition, eggs also contain vitamin D and selenium, which are important nutrients for the thyroid gland; omega-three fatty acids that aid in brain development; lutein, an antioxidant known to reduce macular degeneration (AMD) and cataract risk; choline – a nutrient essential to fetal tissue growth during pregnancy as well as cell division after birth; and vitamin B-12 – which is needed for red blood cells production and helps maintain healthy nerve function (3).
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Seaweeds contain significant amounts of taurine, but the iron-rich varieties are even better.
Kelp is a type that’s high in both taurine and vitamin A (which aids vision).
Dulse has three grams per serving – or about 20 percent – which translates to 300 milligrams. That means your morning omelet with seaweed will provide you with 40% of your daily allowance without you even realizing it (4).
The Irish moss variety can be found on a shelf near other seaweed products because they do not require refrigeration; this variety packs four grams per serving – or about 20% – translating to 400 milligrams (4). If you’re having trouble finding them, try asking in the Asian food section.
The Welsh variety of seaweed is usually found with other sea vegetables, but this type packs five grams per serving – or about 25% – which translates to 500 milligrams. That means your morning omelet with seaweed will provide you with 50% of your daily allowance without you even realizing it (4).
Seaweeds also contain vitamin A and calcium; they have a high concentration of iodine-supplying minerals as well as significant amounts of magnesium, copper, iron and zinc (4).
Brewer’s yeast is a terrific source of taurine. It also contains selenium and zinc, which are minerals that have been linked to a protective effect on the adrenal gland in animal studies (8). Brewer’s yeast can be found near the spices section in most grocery stores or you can buy it online if your store doesn’t carry it.
You should look for brewer’s yeasts that have potassium on them; this will ensure they’re fresh enough to consume without any risk of spoilage from harmful bacteria such as salmonella (1). You’ll know you’ve got quality when you see an expiration date listed somewhere around six months out (depending on the type).
If buying powdered brewers’ yeast, make sure there isn’t more than 15% sugar in the product.
For about one tablespoon, you’ll get 50 milligrams of taurine which is good for your circulation and helps regulate heart muscle contractions after a workout (1). You can also sprinkle it over salads or oatmeal to spice things up and add some extra flavor.
Peanuts are a great source of taurine because they’re one of only three nuts that has an adequate amount (the others being almonds and hazelnuts). One ounce contains nine percent – or about 45 milligrams (6).
Eating peanuts not only provides protein, but also is known to help reduce cholesterol levels in people who consume two ounces per day (6).
Read More: Benefits Of Peanuts For Weight Loss
Milk, yogurt and cheese are all high in taurine.
The average American consumes about three cups of milk every day – which translates to over 300 milligrams a day (2). That’s almost half your daily allowance without eating any other food! If you’re not into dairy products or are lactose intolerant, try adding some organic plain Greek yogurt with honey on top for breakfast instead.
Cheese is also rich in taurine; ½ an ounce has 100 milligrams while ¼ cup of ricotta-stuffed pasta shells contains 85 milligrams (14).
Dairy is loaded with calcium – which is important for supporting your bone health – as well as other nutrients such as vitamin D, riboflavin, and protein (14).
In addition to these benefits, some dairy products also have probiotic cultures that promote a healthy gut environment (7).
Salmon is a great source of omega-three fatty acids which are important for brain health. They’re also high in taurine, as well as vitamin B12 and selenium (9).
Some people might think beef jerky is loaded with preservatives, but it’s actually a healthy snack. It has taurine and protein to keep you going all day long without feeling sluggish in the afternoons or at night before bedtime.
If you’re not eating red meat regularly then this is also an easy way to get your daily requirement of iron.
Lamb is a great source of taurine, B12, and selenium (5). It’s also leaner than other meats so it can be used as a healthier option for your family if you’re trying to avoid saturated fat from red meat like beef or pork. And when cooked right the lamb will taste delicious!
The Bottom Line
While some people have an aversion to many types of meat and fish, there’s no denying that these foods are a great source of taurine. Some people may avoid these items because they contain the saturated fat that’s bad for your heart, but it all comes down to how much you eat and what else is in your diet. These food sources of taurine can make a huge difference when added to your diet.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Brewer’s yeast (n.d., mountsinai.org)
- Daily milk consumption and all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease and stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational cohort studies (2016, nih.gov)
- Eggs (n.d., harvard.edu)
- Nutritional and digestive health benefits of seaweed (2011, pubmed.gov)
- Nutritional enhancement of sheep meat fatty acid profile for human health and wellbeing (2017, pubmed.gov)
- Nuts for the Heart (n.d., harvard.edu)
- Probiotics in the dairy industry-Advances and opportunities (2021, wiley.com)
- Protective effect of Brewer’s yeast on the methimazole-induced-adrenal atrophy (a stereological study) (2010, pubmed.gov)
- Quantitative Analysis of the Benefits and Risks of Consuming Farmed and Wild Salmon (2005, oup.com)
- Review: Taurine: A “very essential” amino acid (2012, nih.gov)
- Shellfish: Nutritive Value, Health Benefits, and consumer safety (2017, wiley.com)
- Taurine: a conditionally essential amino acid in humans? An overview in health and disease (2002, nutricionhospitalaria.com)
- Taurine: A Potential Ergogenic Aid for Preventing Muscle damage and Protein Catabolism and Decreasing Oxidative Stress Produced by Endurance Exercise (2017, nih.gov)
- The determination and distribution of taurine in dairy products (1993, sciencedirect.com)
- The potential health benefits of taurine in cardiovascular disease (2008, nih.gov)
- The potential usefulness of taurine on diabetes mellitus and its complications (2012, nih.gov)