what foods are high in leucine

What Foods Are High In Leucine? 15 Natural HMB Sources

Leucine is a building block called an amino acid that your body absolutely needs to build and repair muscle.

It also helps strengthen your immune system, keeps your blood sugar levels in check, and even helps you burn calories!

This article answers the question "What Foods Are High In Leucine?" by giving you 15 great sources of this important nutrient.


Key Takeaways

  • Leucine is an amino acid your body can't make on its own, so you need to get it from food or supplements.
  • Leucine helps build and repair muscle, boosts your immune system, and can even help you burn calories.
  • You can find plenty of leucine in beef, salmon, eggs, beans, nuts, and dairy products.

What is Leucine?

Leucine is a special kind of amino acid

Leucine is a special kind of amino acid called a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) that's found in protein. It plays a critical role in helping your body build muscle.

Unlike some other amino acids, your body can't make leucine by itself, so you need to get it from your diet by eating things like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and beans.

One of the well-known metabolites of leucine in the fitness community is HMB.

Since HMB cannot be synthesized by the body or directly ingested from food but must be metabolized, athletes and fitness enthusiasts seek natural sources of leucine supplements.

You may also like: 7 Best HMB and Vitamin D3 Supplements for Muscle Growth

What are the Benefits of Leucine?

Out of the 20 essential amino acids, there are 9 your body absolutely needs.

Leucine is one of a special group of 3 called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that offer a variety of health benefits, including:

Building Muscle: Leucine, especially a substance your body makes from it called HMB, is like a superstar for your muscles and bones. Research shows it can help you build muscle, keep your bones strong, and even prevent muscle loss as you age [1]. This makes it especially great for athletes [23].

Recovering Faster: Leucine and HMB help your body build muscle protein faster, which means you recover from workouts quicker and reduce muscle soreness. They also help prevent muscle damage after exercise [2].

Preventing Muscle Loss: Leucine is being studied for its ability to help build and repair muscle, which could be helpful for people recovering from injuries or illnesses that cause muscle loss [3].

Weight Management: Leucine and HMB play a role in how your body uses energy. Studies suggest they may help with weight control, especially when combined with a high-protein diet [4] [24].

Stronger Bones: Leucine and HMB have been shown to help prevent a condition called sarcopenia, which causes bone loss and weakness in older adults [6] [23].

You may also like: HMB And Vitamin D3 Benefits For Muscle Function And Fat Loss

15 Common Foods Rich in Leucine


A 100g serving of grapefruit contains about 0.015g of Leucine.

This vibrant fruit is not only delicious but also packed with vitamin C, fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, and essential minerals.

Grapefruit boosts your immune system, aids digestion, and promotes brain and cardiovascular health [8]. Low in calories and high in fiber, it keeps you full longer, helping with portion control.

Whether you enjoy it fresh in the morning or blend it into a refreshing smoothie, grapefruit is a fantastic addition to your diet.


A 100g serving of salmon contains 1.496g of Leucine.

Salmon is a culinary delight, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA. These nutrients are essential for heart health, brain function, and reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases [9].

Imagine a succulent piece of salmon, pan-seared to perfection, or perhaps grilled with a hint of lemon. It's also great in a teriyaki glaze, mixed into salads, or enjoyed raw as sashimi. Each bite brings both flavor and a wealth of health benefits.


A 100g serving of chickpeas contains 0.6g of Leucine

A 100g serving of chickpeas contains 0.6g of Leucine.

Chickpeas are a versatile ingredient, high in fiber, which helps lower bad cholesterol, improve digestion, and regulate blood sugar levels. They are also loaded with essential vitamins like A, C, and B6 [10].

From crispy roasted chickpeas that make a perfect snack to hearty salads, creamy hummus, or savory falafel, there are countless delicious ways to enjoy chickpeas and their many health benefits.

Brown Rice

A 100g portion of cooked brown rice contains 0.2g of Leucine.

Richer in vitamins, minerals, and fiber than white rice, brown rice is a nutritious staple. It contains B vitamins for energy metabolism and red blood cell production, and antioxidants for immune support and cancer prevention [11].

Brown rice adds a nutty flavor to dishes like Taco Chicken & Rice, Pesto Rice & Bean Soup, or can even be turned into a healthier version of fried rice using an air fryer.


A 100g serving of cooked lentils contains 0.654g of Leucine.

Lentils are a powerhouse of nutrition, rich in fiber and vitamins that support digestion, heart health, and help lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

They also promote healthy skin, reduce cancer risk, and boost brain health [12].

You can add lentils to tuna salad, make them the star of a hearty soup, or use them as a vegetarian meat substitute in tacos. Their earthy flavor and satisfying texture make them a favorite in many dishes.


A serving of 100g eggs contains 1.075g of Leucine

A serving of 100g eggs contains 1.075g of Leucine.

Eggs are incredibly nutritious, providing choline for brain development and memory enhancement, and supporting cardiovascular health by lowering bad cholesterol levels. They also offer biotin and vitamins A, D, and E for skin and hair health [13].

From a simple boiled egg to a rich and creamy scrambled egg breakfast, or a more elaborate egg salad sandwich, the versatility of eggs makes them an easy and nutritious choice for any meal.

Canned Navy Beans

A 100g serving of canned navy beans contains 0.639g of Leucine.

This convenient food is easy to prepare and offers many health benefits. Navy beans provide protein, fiber, vitamins, and essential minerals, helping to control blood sugar, support weight loss, improve digestion, reduce cancer risk, and enhance skin health due to their antioxidant properties [14].

You can easily buy canned navy beans from supermarkets or markets, then cook and enjoy them. They also make a delicious navy bean cream soup.


A 100g serving of soybeans contains 1.355g of Leucine.

Soybeans are high in fiber, which improves digestion, prevents constipation, and keeps you feeling full longer. The essential minerals and vitamins in soybeans support enzyme functions, energy production, and carbohydrate metabolism. Some soybean peptides help protect against heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis [15].

Soybeans can be used to make milk or dishes like zucchini stuffed with soybeans,

Thai soybeans in cabbage cups, soy kebabs, oatmeal, and soy pancakes.


A 100g serving of nuts contains 1.5g of Leucine

A 100g serving of nuts contains 1.5g of Leucine.

Nuts like almonds, chestnuts, walnuts, and cashews provide various health benefits when included in your daily diet. They offer fiber, unsaturated fats, vitamins, and minerals that enhance heart health, prevent artery-hardening conditions, manage diabetes, offer antioxidant properties, and support brain health [16].

You can eat nuts directly after simple processing or use them in baking. Diabetic patients should eat nuts in moderation and be cautious with sweet baked goods high in sugar.


A 100g serving of beef contains 2.652g of Leucine.

Beef provides saturated fat that is not harmful to human health and essential minerals like phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and zinc, which are crucial for nerve function and red blood cell production. Beef also supports brain development, vision, and heart health [17].

Beef can be used in various main dishes, from soups and sautés to fried and mixed dishes. Try beef burgers, beefsteaks, and marinated beef koftas.

Cottage Cheese

A 100g serving of cottage cheese contains 1.27g of Leucine.

This food is a great source of calcium, promoting bone and dental health. It also provides fiber and various vitamins and minerals, reducing constipation risk, boosting metabolism, and improving digestive function [18].

Add cottage cheese to salads, mix it with grilled vegetables and kale, make lemon cheesecake, vegetarian frittata, or pair it with smoked salmon and radish.

Pumpkin Seeds

A 100g serving of pumpkin seeds contains 2.419g of Leucine.

Pumpkin seeds are a natural energy source, providing fats, proteins, and carbohydrates that fuel daily activities. Their fiber and antioxidants aid digestion, control blood sugar levels, reduce oxidative stress, and prevent chronic diseases like heart disease or cancer [19].

Use pumpkin seeds to make roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed cookies, roasted broccoli with pumpkin seed pesto, or pumpkin seed bread.

Hemp Seeds

A 100g serving of hemp seeds contains 2.163g of Leucine

A 100g serving of hemp seeds contains 2.163g of Leucine.

Hemp seeds offer a perfect ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects, support heart health, improve brain function, and maintain a healthy immune system.

Although hemp seeds come from the cannabis plant, they do not contain THC, so they do not affect your mind or cause addiction [20].

Prepare hemp seeds in simple dishes like hemp crepes, savory hemp popcorn, hemp and tofu burgers, or hemp pesto.


A 100g serving of spirulina contains 4.93g of Leucine.

Spirulina has been shown to lower cholesterol, prevent cancer, boost the immune system, support gut health, reduce kidney toxicity from heavy metals and drugs, and protect against radiation. Spirulina contains more protein than meat and fish and has all the essential amino acids that are beneficial to health [21].

Make spirulina into smoothies, ice cream, or spirulina pudding with chia seeds.


A 100g serving of peanuts contains 1.672g of Leucine.

Peanuts contain antioxidants like resveratrol, vitamin E, and polyphenols, which help prevent cellular damage from oxidative stress and reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and chronic diseases [22].

Peanuts are easy to process and can be used in dishes like puffed caramel corn, boiled peanuts, or authentic Pad Thai.


Leucine is an essential amino acid that plays a crucial role in muscle building and recovery while also offering other health benefits.

This article aims to provide you with useful information on foods rich in Leucine and HMB naturally. Incorporate these foods into your daily diet for a healthy, energetic body.


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[8] Cancalon, Paul F. Orange and Grapefruit Bioactive Compounds, Health Benefits, and Other Attributes. 19 June 2013, pp. 101–124, https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118635551.ch6. Accessed 15 May 2024.

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Ralph S. Albert, with over 10 years of expertise in nutrition and research, now heads the Research division at Vinatura Supplements. His dedication and extensive knowledge ensure top-quality articles on nutrition and health, collaborating with a skilled team. He has successfully completed The VINATURA Expertise Research Training Program, underscoring his commitment to Vinatura's mission. Ralph has also published numerous articles and conducted valuable research in the field, making him a trusted resource for individuals on their wellness journey.

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