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30 Vegan Foods High In Leucine: The Most Efficient Sources

Leucine is one of the most vital nutrients needed by the body for proper growth and functioning. This article discusses the best plant-based sources of leucine and its health benefits.
Jyothi Shenoy, MD, MBA

Written by Jyothi Shenoy, MD, MBA. Updated on December 21, 2022.

Leucine is a form of amino acid that plays a key role in several important functions in our body. Leucine offers several health benefits.

It is essential for improving muscle growth and maintaining muscle strength.

Leucine can also enhance skin health and could be beneficial for diabetes management, weight loss, and the prevention of heart diseases.

However, our bodies cannot produce this nutrient. Hence, we need to ensure our diet is comprised of foods rich in leucine so that we are not deprived of the benefits associated with it.

Here is a brief discussion of what leucine is and the health benefits provided by this nutrient.

Vegan Leucine Food Sources

Leucine is an important essential amino acid, especially for physically active people because it boosts muscle growth and post-workout recovery.

When it comes to plant-based sources of leucine, vital wheat gluten, often used to make seitan and dried seaweeds are absolutely the best sources.

However, many other foods are high in leucine, such as hemp seeds, peanuts, pistachio nuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and others.

Vegan foods that provide a high amount of leucine include:

  • Vital wheat gluten: Seitan
  • Seaweeds: Spirulina, laver, wakame, etc
  • Seeds: Hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseed
  • Nuts: Peanuts, pistachios, almonds, cashews, brazil nut
  • Grains: Oats, buckwheat groats, rye grain
  • Soy and soy products: Soybeans, tofu variations, tempeh
  • Legumes: Black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, lentils, adzuki beans, chickpeas

We’ve ranked high-leucine food sources in two ways:

  • Leucine content per 100 grams
  • Leucine content pre 100 kcal

Plant-Based Leucine Food Sources per 100 g

In the following table, you can find the 30 foods with the highest amount of leucine per 100 grams.

FoodLeucine (g) per 100 grams
Vital wheat gluten5.40
Seaweed (dried)4.94
Hemp seeds2.16
Pistachio nuts1.60
Pumpkin seeds1.57
Chia seeds1.37
Sesame seeds1.36
Brazil nut1.19
Pine nuts0.99
Buckwheat groats0.74
Black beans0.71
Navy beans0.70
Kidney beans0.69
Adzuki beans0.63
Macadamia nut0.60
Fava bean0.57
Rye grain0.56
Mung bean0.54
Lima beans0.53

Plant-Based Leucine Food Sources per 100 kcal

Some people might prefer a list ranked by the energy foods provide, and find these lists more actionable and useful.

That’s why we created a list of 30 leucine-rich foods, ranked by 100 calories.

FoodLeucine (g) per 100 calories
Vital wheat gluten1.46
Adzuki beans0.49
Navy beans0.5
Kidney beans0.55
Black beans0.54
Buckwheat groats0.21
Mung bean0.52
Pumpkin seeds0.35
Pistachio nuts0.29
Sesame seeds0.24
Fava bean0.52
Rye grain0.17
Lima beans0.43
Brazil nut0.18
Pine nuts0.15
Hemp seeds0.39
Swiss chard0.69

What is Leucine?

Leucine is a branch-chained amino acid. It helps in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats in the body thus enabling efficient control of blood sugar levels.

Leucine, being a form of amino acid, can also help to form proteins that are the building blocks of our body.

This property of leucine can play a role in promoting wound healing mechanisms aimed at repairing damaged or inflamed tissues.

It is these benefits that make leucine one of the most vital nutrients needed by the body for proper growth and functioning.

Health Benefits of Leucine

Supports Growth and Development

Leucine is a form of amino acid that the body uses to make protein.

Proteins, in turn, form the building blocks of the tissues, thus encouraging the growth of new cells and tissues. This is why leucine and other amino acids are considered essential for the growth and development of children.

However, these effects of leucine are not limited to its ability to form proteins. Children also need leucine during their growing years for the production of growth hormones.

Leucine can improve the growth hormone secretion in the body thus supporting the development of organs.

Aids Muscle Building

The body uses leucine for muscle growth and post-workout recovery.

This action of leucine could be attributed to the ability of this nutrient to support protein synthesis and the body’s healing mechanisms.

Since leucine is a branched amino acid, it can break down easily during protein synthesis and thus, help to stimulate muscle growth.

Leucine can also increase muscle strength and thus, improve exercise performance. This is what makes it an essential nutrient for those who work out regularly to improve muscle mass, stamina, and endurance.

This is one of the reasons why bodybuilders, athletes, and sportspersons often consume foods rich in leucine.

It enables them to build stronger and larger muscles and even allows them to recover within a shorter duration after injuries.

Leucine can also provide a source of energy to the body during workouts by delaying the process of the breakdown of protein.

This can allow you to exercise for longer and more strenuously thereby enabling you to derive better results.

Controls Blood Glucose Levels

Leucine is revered for its potential benefits associated with diabetes management. It can help to improve the secretion of insulin in the pancreas.

This property of leucine can be highly beneficial for patients with type 1 diabetes that occurs due to the insufficient production of insulin.

Insulin is a hormone needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates. It allows the cells to use glucose in the blood released from the breakdown of food to be used up as fuel. The utilization of glucose by the cells helps to lower blood sugar levels and prevents diabetes.

However, the reduced secretion of insulin in the pancreas can hamper these processes causing the blood sugar levels to remain elevated leading to the development of type 1 diabetes.

Regular intake of leucine-rich foods could regulate the selection of insulin in the body thus keeping blood sugar levels within normal limits.

Prevent Degenerative Disorders

Leucine can stimulate the regeneration of new cells thus slowing down the age-related wear and tear of tissues.

This property of leucine can be beneficial for reducing the risk of degenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

It can also protect the joint tissues against inflammation and wear and tear. This is why; patients vulnerable to developing osteoarthritis are advised to increase their intake of leucine-rich foods.

Supports Weight Loss

Leucine can be used by people trying to lose weight. This amino acid can play a key role in weight management by reducing food cravings and creating a sensation of fullness in the stomach.

This means eating foods rich in leucine can increase the sense of satiety, and thus, reduce the total food intake of a person.

Studies suggest that leucine helps to curb appetite by increasing the response of the body to the hormone leptin, which is responsible for appetite regulation.

This can lower the person’s calorie intake thus forcing the body to use fats to meet its energy requirements. This is how leucine can help people lose belly fat and improve weight loss results.

Improves Skin Health

Leucine is one of the vital nutrients that can help to maintain skin health by stimulating the regeneration of new healthy cells.

It is revered for its natural anti-aging properties that could be attributed to its ability to form new cells that can replace the old and damaged cells on the skin thus restoring the youthful appearance of the person.

It can reduce the signs of aging like wrinkles and fine lines and even tone up the muscles thus preventing sagging.

Regular intake of food containing leucine can make the skin firmer and smoother by improving its elasticity making one look younger and more attractive.


Regular intake of foods rich in leucine can support the regeneration of new healthy cells and improve the body’s ability to heal damaged tissues.

It can aid weight loss, improve skin health and enhance diabetes control. It can also support muscle growth and enhance exercise performance thereby improving your overall health and fitness.

These benefits mark the need to ensure your body is not deprived of leucine.

Vegans should ensure their diet comprises foods containing leucine such as nuts, soybean, and brown rice so that they can enjoy the benefits of this nutrient.

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  2. We cite relevant studies and trusted sources.
  3. It's regularly updated.

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