10 Best foods rich in L-carnitine

You can have that added boost of energy by eating food rich in L-carnitine. The body requires enormous energy to power cellular metabolism, growth, and regeneration. 

L-carnitine plays a significant role in the breakdown or catabolism of lipids to form energy or ATP molecules. It is highly abundant in almost all cells found in the body and is derived from methionine and lysine amino acids. 

Although L-carnitine is produced by the body naturally, many people with genetic problems or medical issues do not create this compound naturally.

When individuals are deficient in L-carnitine, this nutrient becomes essential and has to be sourced from the food we eat or through supplementation.

One way to ensure you have an adequate supply of L-carnitine is through your diet. In this blog post, we will explore the top 10 foods that are rich sources of L-carnitine.

What does L-carnitine do for the body?

L-carnitine plays several essential roles in the human body. Its primary function is to assist in transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria, the energy-producing powerhouses of our cells [1]. This process is crucial for several reasons:

  • Energy production: L-carnitine enables the efficient utilization of fat as a fuel source, making it particularly important during periods of increased energy demand, such as exercise or strenuous physical activity.
  • Weight management: By enhancing the body’s ability to use fat for energy, l-carnitine may contribute to fat loss and improved body composition when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.
  • Heart health: L-carnitine helps in the transport of long-chain fatty acids, reducing their accumulation in the heart muscle. This can potentially lower the risk of heart disease and improve overall heart function [2].
  • Brain function: Some studies suggest that L-carnitine may have a positive impact on brain health. It could potentially improve cognitive function and memory, though more research is needed.
  • Aging and disease prevention: L-carnitine’s antioxidant properties may contribute to overall health and disease prevention. It has been studied for its potential role in conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and age-related decline [3].

L-carnitine acts as an antioxidant in the body and has anti-inflammatory properties. As an antioxidant, it scavenges free radicals that cause premature cell death, cellular destruction, and early aging.

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What food is highest in L-carnitine?

If you plan to boost L-carnitine levels naturally, you can eat these ten foods high in L-carnitine [4], [5].

However, you should talk to your doctor if you have illnesses or genetic diseases that lower your level of L-carnitine.

In this case, you might need L-carnitine supplementation to meet your body’s demands. Here are some of the ten foods rich in L-carnitine: 

1. Beef steak 

Beef remains one of the richest sources of L-carnitine. Redder meat has more L-carnitine content. Besides L-carnitine, beef is a rich source of other vitamins, protein, zinc, and iron. 

Approximately 4 ounces or 113 grams of cooked beef steak contains 56-162 mg of L-carnitine.

Adding steak to your diet will ensure that you have an excellent L-carnitine source from the food you eat. However, 4 ounces of steak will only supply 11.2% to 32.4% of the RDA for L-carnitine. 

Why is this significant? L-carnitine plays a pivotal role in the body’s energy metabolism. It acts as a transport system for fatty acids, shuttling them into the mitochondria, where they are converted into energy.

This process is vital for sustaining the body’s energy levels, particularly during physical activities or workouts.

Supplementing your diet with other sources of L-carnitine will ensure that you are meeting the RDA for this vital nutrient in the body.

beef steak

2. Ground beef 

Three ounces or 85 grams of cooked ground beef contains 65-74 grams of L-carnitine. This serving size supplies 13% to 15% of the RDA [6].

Ground beef can be made from various cuts of beef, including lean cuts like sirloin or chuck, or slightly fattier cuts like ground chuck or ground round. The L-carnitine content can vary accordingly.

L-carnitine’s significance lies in its role as a critical component of energy metabolism. It acts as a transport mechanism for fatty acids, ushering them into the mitochondria.

This process is essential for maintaining energy levels during physical activities, exercise, and daily tasks.

Like beef steak, ground beef is an excellent source of zinc, iron, and other vitamins and minerals needed to help the body function well. 

3. Pork meat 

Pork meat is red meat but has lesser L-carnitine content than beef steak or ground beef. 

Four ounces or 113 grams of cooked pork meat contains 42 mg of carnitine. The amount of carnitine in this serving size is about 8.4% of the RDA.

While this may be slightly lower than some other meat sources, pork still provides a valuable contribution to your daily L-Carnitine needs.

Pork meat is also a rich source of vitamins A, D, E, and K2. Although pork meat has animal fat, it is still satiating and nourishing. 

When choosing pork meat, it’s important to be mindful of the cut and preparation method. Leaner cuts of pork, such as loin or tenderloin, tend to be lower in fat and calories while still providing a healthy dose of L-carnitine and essential nutrients. 

4. Whole cup of milk 

Milk is high in calcium, a mineral needed to form and strengthen bones and teeth. In addition, it contains high amounts of vitamin D and other vitamins and nutrients required for children’s optimal growth and development.

A standard whole cup of milk, typically equal to 8 fluid ounces or 240 milliliters, contains approximately 8 to 12 milligrams of L-carnitine [7]. However, this only amounts to about 2% of the RDA for this nutrient. 

While milk may not be the most concentrated source of L-carnitine, it offers numerous other health benefits and serves as an important source of hydration.

Combining this food with other food sources rich in L-carnitine will ensure you get enough L-carnitine from your diet. 

5. Cooked cod fish

Three ounces of cooked cod fish contains 3-5 mg of L-carnitine or about 1% of the RDA. Cod fish is also rich in cholesterol; a serving size (3 ounces) can provide 14% of the RDA for cholesterol. It is also rich in potassium and has trace iron, vitamin C, and calcium.

One notable aspect of cod fish is its versatility in the kitchen. Its mild flavor makes it a favorite choice for various cooking methods, including baking, grilling, pan-searing, and poaching. 

Codf fish also contains vitamin B6, cobalamin, and magnesium. It is also a rich source of protein, which is needed by the body to build skeletal and heart muscles, the organs that require high amounts of L-carnitine.

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6. Cooked chicken breast 

Unlike red meat, chicken breast meat has low levels of L-carnitine. Although it is not an excellent source of L-carnitine, eating more cooked chicken breast would increase the amount of L-carnitine derived from this source. 

About three ounces of cooked chicken breast contains 2-4 milligrams of L-carnitine, which is 0.4% to 0.8% of the RDA. 

When incorporating chicken breast into your diet, it’s important to prioritize lean cooking techniques, such as grilling or baking without excessive added fats, to maintain its low-fat content. 

Cooked chicken breast is a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals [8]. People on a ketogenic diet often rely on cooked chicken breast to provide them with the needed proteins for the body.

In addition, eating cooked chicken breast and reducing the amount of carbohydrates you take would help in weight loss. 

7. Ice cream 

An 8-ounce cup of ice cream has 8 mg of L-carnitine or 1.6% of the RDA for this nutrient. Ice cream contains vitamins A and E due to its dairy component and iron.

However, overeating ice cream may have adverse side effects as the ice cream is rich in saturated fats and high in cholesterol and sugar [9].

Opting for smaller portions and choosing lighter versions or alternatives with reduced sugar and fat content can help you enjoy ice cream while being mindful of your dietary choices.

Also, it’s worth noting that certain dietary restrictions, such as lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, may limit some individuals’ ability to enjoy traditional dairy-based ice cream. 

8. Cheddar cheese 

A serving size of about 2 ounces of cheddar cheese has 2 milligrams of L-carnitine, which is 0.4% of the RDA for this nutrient. 

Cheddar cheese is also rich in calcium, with one serving size contributing 15% of the RDA for calcium. It is also a good source of B12, vitamin A, protein, and phosphorus.

Apart from being a nutrient-dense food, it can be stored easily and does not require refrigeration. Further, cheddar cheese may be tolerated more than milk due to its low lactose content. 

There are people who cannot tolerate lactose since they lack the enzyme lactase. Lactase is needed to needed to break down lactose. 


Current dietary guidelines recommend low-fat dairy, which includes cheddar cheese, to prevent cardiovascular disease. However, there are reports that a full-fat daily diet may prevent the risk of type 2 diabetes [10].

cheddar cheese

9. Whole wheat bread 

Two slices of whole wheat bread have 0.2 mg of L-carnitine or 0.04% of the RDA. Although whole wheat bread has a lower L-carnitine content, it is a rich source of fiber, magnesium, antioxidant vitamins, and phytochemicals. 

Epidemiological studies [11], which are extensive studies examining a population segment, have consistently pointed out an inverse relationship between whole grain consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and type 2 diabetes. Eating larger servings of whole grain daily further lowers the risk of long-term conditions. 

Eating six slices of whole wheat bread daily increases the amount of L-carnitine consumed. Further, eating whole wheat bread also protects you from illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. 

10. Cooked asparagus 

While red meat remains a significant source of L-carnitine, vegetables also contain trace amounts of the antioxidant L-carnitine. 

A half cup of cooked asparagus has 0.1 mg of L-carnitine, which is 0.02% of the RDA for this nutrient. Eating more than half a cup of cooked asparagus daily can increase the amount of L-carnitine in the body. 

Apart from L-carnitine, asparagus is a rich source of iron, fiber, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, and protein. Since it is low in calories but rich in nutrients, it can aid weight loss, lower blood pressure, and improve digestion.

What is the recommended daily allowance for L-carnitine? 

Determining the appropriate daily intake of L-carnitine is essential to ensure you’re meeting your body’s needs without overdoing it. 

L-carnitine can be sourced from the food we eat. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for L-carnitine is 500-2000 mg/day. However, higher doses, such as 3000 mg/day, are still considered safe and tolerable. 

Typically, adults who maintain a balanced diet and are generally healthy can produce sufficient L-carnitine endogenously (within the body) to meet their needs.

Therefore, there may not be a specific recommended daily allowance for them. Instead, they can rely on dietary sources and the body’s natural synthesis.

It’s important to note that excessive L-carnitine intake from supplements may lead to side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and a “fishy” body odor, so it’s essential to use caution and follow recommended guidelines if considering supplementation.

Conclusion

Preparing your meals with some or all of the food sources rich in L-carnitine can naturally boost the amount of L-carnitine in your body.

For example, combining steak with asparagus on the side and whole wheat bread could help you enjoy a richly satisfying meal rich in L-carnitine. 

L-carnitine is necessary to produce energy in the body. Increasing food intake of food sources rich in L-carnitine will ensure a steady supply of this vital nutrient in the body. 

Moderation is key when enjoying these L-carnitine-rich foods as part of a broader diet that embraces variety and balance.

With the knowledge of these dietary options, you can embark on a culinary journey that not only tantalizes your taste buds but also promotes your overall health and vitality.

FAQs

What are the best sources of L-carnitine?

The best sources of L-carnitine include beef steak, ground beef, pork meat, milk, cod fish, chicken breast, cheddar cheese, whole wheat bread, and asparagus.

How can I increase my L-carnitine naturally?

You can increase your L-carnitine intake naturally by including L-carnitine-rich foods like meats, dairy products, and certain vegetables in your diet.

How should I incorporate L-carnitine-rich foods into my diet?

You can incorporate L-carnitine-rich foods into your diet by adding beef or poultry to salads, enjoying milk or dairy alternatives with cereal, and preparing fish or chicken dishes with your favorite seasonings.

How much L-carnitine do I need daily?

There isn’t a universally established daily requirement for L-carnitine, but most healthy individuals can obtain enough from a balanced diet. For personalized recommendations, consult a healthcare professional or dietitian.

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[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8910660/ 
[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23597877/ 
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7400709/ 
[4] https://www.livestrong.com/article/22647-foods-containing-l-carnitine/ 
[5] https://www.xtfoodtech.com/news_detail/4.html 
[6] https://www.medicinenet.com/what_foods_are_high_in_carnitine/article.htm 
[7] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814699000424 
[8] https://www.verywellfit.com/how-many-calories-in-chicken-breast-3495665 
[9] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28633872/ 
[10] https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/dietary-guidelines/previous-dietary-guidelines/2015 
[11] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/cohort-effect

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