12 Foods High in Glycine: The Amino Acid and Its Benefits

Posted by Dr. Ian Stern on

Dr. Ian Stern Dr. Ian Stern Dr. Ian Stern

Not too many people know about the tiny non-essential amino acid called glycine. Yet your body uses it everyday, and frankly, you cannot live without it. This amino acid is essential for many muscle, cognitive, and metabolic functions.

It is called a non-essential (or conditional) amino acid because your body naturally produces small amounts of glycine from other amino acids. However, it’s also present in many foods, and you can certainly benefit from consuming a lot more due to its numerous benefits. While you can take it as a supplement, obtaining it from food sources may be more beneficial.  


What Is Glycine

Being an amino acid, glycine is a building block for protein. It helps the body break down and transport nutrients and fat to be used by cells for energy. It aids in the creation of proteins, in particular collagen, which the body needs for the maintenance of tissues and the production of enzymes and hormones.

Glycine is essential for building muscle mass and the formation of stretchy, flexible cartilage, which is particularly important as we get older. It also helps heal damaged joints. Glycine is important for digestion as well as cognitive function. It is used to treat schizophrenia. It plays an important role in the prevention of mental disorders. It also helps you sleep better. 


Foods High in Glycine

Here are some foods that are naturally high in glycine. 

1. Gelatin Powder

Gelatin is the name for cooked collagen. It is made almost entirely of protein, and its unique amino acid profile gives it many health benefits. Gelatin can be used to make jell-o, homemade ice cream, gummies, whipped cream, etc. Glycine is abundant in gelatin. 

2. Bone Broth

Bone broth can be one of the best sources of collagen. By adding just 2 tablespoons of collagen to your diet, you will add about 3 grams of glycine to your diet. 

3. Poultry Skin

Don’t tear the skin from that chicken or turkey! That’s valuable glycine. Chicken skin contains roughly 3.3 grams of glycine per 3.5 ounces. 


4. Seafood

Fish too has glycine, especially carp, catfish, mollusks, clams, sturgeon, and wild salmon. Fish is an important source of quality protein, which has a greater satiety effect than other sources of animal proteins like beef and chicken.

5. Meat 

Animal protein, including muscle meat, does contain some glycine. However, glycine is mostly found in connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, skin, cartilage, and bones.

Back in the day, these parts of the animal were consumed along with muscle meat, but nowadays they are mostly associated with low-quality meat. Nonetheless, lean beef and lamb contain roughly 2 g of glycine per 3.5 ounces. 

6. Legumes

Legumes and legume products are a good source of glycine as well. Some examples include soybeans and tofu, peanuts and peanut butter, peas, mungo beans, lentils, and kidney beans.  


7. Dairy Products

Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese have glycine. You might have heard the recommendation to have a glass of warm milk prior to bedtime to help you fall asleep. This is because the glycine in milk has been shown to help facilitate and improve the quality of sleep. 

8. Spinach

Spinach is packed with vitamins and nutrients! Not only is it a great source of magnesium, iron, vitamins B2 and B6, folate, vitamins A, K, and E, calcium, potassium, manganese, and copper, but it’s also a pretty good source of glycine. 

9. Dried Seaweed

Traditionally used as food in China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, dried seaweed has become popular in the US recently as well.  Seaweed is a great source of antioxidants, fiber to support your gut health, iodine, and also glycine. 


10. Watercress

This ancient green was a staple in the diet of Roman soldiers. It is a great source of vitamins K, C, A, calcium, magnesium, as well as glycine.

11. Asparagus

Asparagus is considered by some to be one of the world’s healthiest foods. Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamins K, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, A, and E, folate, copper, selenium, fiber, manganese, zinc, iron, and protein. It also contains plenty of amino acids, including glycine. 

12. Cabbage

Cabbage is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory cruciferous vegetable, containing numerous vitamins and minerals. It provides support to the digestive tract and may improve cardiovascular health. It is also rich in amino acids. 


The Benefits of Glycine

Glycine is one of twenty amino acids used to make protein in the body. It is also one of the most widespread amino acids found in enzymes and proteins, which is why it can benefit almost every part of the body. It promotes better muscle growth and slows down the loss of cartilage, especially as we get older. It has numerous impressive health benefits:

  • Joint health
  • Helps build muscle mass
  • Supports mental health
  • Helps regulate blood sugar
  • Improves sleep
  • Your body uses it to make glutathione, a powerful antioxidant 
  • May protect your liver from the damage of alcohol
  • Helps build the lining of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Gives you more energy and fights fatigue
  • Fights the effects of stress and anxiety
  • Protects your skin from signs of aging
  • May reduce homocysteine levels following high-protein meals
  • Reduces the risk for certain types of cancer

Glycine and Methionine

Unlike glycine, methionine is an essential amino acid, which means that your body cannot produce it on its own but needs it to function. Methionine is abundant in eggs, seafood, and muscle meat. When methionine is metabolized, your body may use it to produce another amino acid called homocysteine. Excessive consumption of methionine may lead to elevated blood levels of homocysteine, which has been associated with heart disease and other chronic conditions.

Glycine, in turn, may reduce homocysteine levels in the blood after high-protein meals. Some other nutrients such as folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, choline, and trimethylglycine are also important for keeping homocysteine levels within normal range. 


What to Know About Glycine

Glycine is very valuable in that it feeds the brain. It supports cognitive performance and helps regulate nerve impulses. It helps the metabolic synthesis of certain nutrients that the brain and nerves use for energy.

It is also very valuable for slowing down the loss of cartilage in joints and skin, which happens naturally as we age. As people get older, it’s especially important to consume enough amino acids in order to repair damaged tissues within joints that suffer due to ongoing free radical damage.

As you can tell, there are many benefits to including more glycine-rich foods in your diet. Additionally, you may benefit from Dr. Ian’s Regenerate product, which is a complete joint support formula, including another important amino acid, Leucine.


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