Foods with High Ammonia Levels: Causes, Risks, and Alternatives

Ammonia is a compound containing nitrogen and hydrogen that is naturally produced in the human body during protein metabolism. However, excessive levels of ammonia can be harmful and lead to various health issues. Surprisingly, some foods contain high levels of ammonia or can contribute to its production in the body. In this article, we will explore foods with high ammonia levels, their potential risks, and suggest healthier alternatives to consider.


Table of Contents

Understanding Ammonia:

Ammonia is primarily formed in the body when proteins are broken down, such as during digestion and muscle metabolism. The liver plays a crucial role in converting ammonia into urea, which is then eliminated through urine. However, certain factors can disrupt this process, leading to elevated ammonia levels.

Foods with High Ammonia Levels:


  1. Processed Meats: Processed meats, including sausages, hot dogs, and bacon, have been linked to high ammonia levels. These products are often high in preservatives, additives, and sodium nitrate, which can contribute to increased ammonia production in the body.
  2. Fermented Foods: While fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and certain types of cheese offer probiotic benefits, they can also contain elevated levels of ammonia. This is due to the breakdown of proteins during the fermentation process, leading to ammonia formation.
  3. Certain Seafood: Certain types of seafood, such as shellfish and fish like tuna and mackerel, may contain higher levels of ammonia. This can be attributed to the natural breakdown of proteins in these foods.
  4. Soy Products: Soy-based foods, including tofu and soy milk, have gained popularity as plant-based alternatives. However, some soy products can contribute to increased ammonia levels due to their protein content. Opting for fermented soy products like tempeh or miso can be a healthier choice.

Risks and Health Implications:

Elevated levels of ammonia in the body can pose several health risks, including:

  1. Liver Damage: High ammonia levels can put strain on the liver, impairing its ability to convert ammonia into urea. This can potentially lead to liver damage and related complications.
  2. Neurological Issues: Excessive ammonia can affect the central nervous system and may lead to symptoms like confusion, difficulty concentrating, tremors, and even coma in severe cases.
  3. Kidney Problems: Increased ammonia levels can also impact kidney function, potentially leading to kidney damage and impaired filtration.

Healthier Alternatives:

  1. Fresh, Lean Protein Sources: Opt for fresh and lean protein sources like chicken breast, turkey, and legumes. These options provide high-quality protein with lower ammonia content.
  2. Plant-based Proteins: Consider incorporating plant-based protein sources such as lentils, quinoa, and chickpeas into your diet. These options are not only rich in protein but also offer various other nutrients without contributing to high ammonia levels.
  3. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: Include a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet to support overall health. They are low in ammonia and provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  4. Whole Grains: Replace refined grains with whole grains like brown rice, oats, and whole wheat bread. Whole grains offer a host of nutrients and have a lower ammonia impact compared to their refined counterparts.


While ammonia is a natural byproduct of protein metabolism, excessive levels can have detrimental effects on health. Foods such as processed meats, fermented foods, certain seafood, and soy products can contribute to increased ammonia levels. To minimize health risks, it is advisable to opt for healthier alternatives like fresh lean proteins, plant-based proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. By making mindful dietary choices, you can maintain balanced ammonia levels and support overall well-being.


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