By - Craig Mullins

9 Different Foods That Trigger Cold Sores

There are several different foods that trigger cold sores. You can learn more about these foods by checking out our list here.

Cold sores can be extremely frustrating to get, and a nightmare to get rid of. However, did you know that the food you eat might impact the number of cold sores you get?

Foods That Trigger Cold Sores
Foods That Trigger Cold Sores

There are a few foods that trigger cold sores, and it might be some of these that keep them cropping up around your mouth. Keep reading below and we’ll go through some of them.

How Food Can Trigger Cold Sores

The amino acid arginine may promote growth and replication of the virus, meaning that foods rich in arginine should be avoided. In contrast, lysine counteracts the effects of the arginine, so foods rich in lysine are recommended for optimal health.


It might be a favorite treat for many of us, but chocolate contains arginine, so we wouldn’t advise eating too much if you’re trying to avoid cold sore triggers. Carob, a chocolate alternative you may find in health food stores, is also arginine-rich.


From almonds to walnuts and hazelnuts, most nuts are high in arginine. Of course, the same goes for nut butters too, so be sure to moderate your intake.


Somewhat unsurprisingly, seeds follow nuts in our list. Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and flax seeds are just three examples of seeds amongst the foods that cause cold sores, again as they are rich in arginine.

Whole Grains

You should also avoid whole grains as they can trigger cold sores too. Avoid brown rice, oats, and both whole-wheat and white flour, as these all have high concentrations of arginine.

Beans and Legumes

Lentils, peanuts, beans and other legumes are more examples of arginine foods to avoid with cold sores. Yes, this includes peanut butter too, so you might want to stay away from the PB&Js if you’re hoping to avoid getting cold sores.

Leafy Green Vegetables

You might not have been expecting this one, but it’s true. Dark leafy greens like spinach are high in arginine. Of course, there are many health benefits to eating these, so we wouldn’t advise you to ditch them but instead perhaps consume in moderation if you don’t want to trigger cold sores.

Processed Meats

Although many meats, like beef, pork and poultry, are high in arginine, our focus here is on processed meats and their effects on your immune system. Processed meat products like bacon aren’t good for your immune system, and a weakened immune system can lead to more frequent cold sore outbreaks.


Gelatin is actually one of the main offenders when it comes to foods high in arginine. Many supplements and pills contain or are coated in gelatin, so make sure you’re aware of what you’re putting in your mouth.

Acidic Fruit

Despite taking precautions, sometimes you will find yourself with a cold sore. In that case, you should try to avoid irritating open sores, and one of the best ways of doing so is to avoid acidic fruit, like oranges, lemons and pineapples. The more you aggravate a cold sore, the longer it will take to heal.

Managing Foods That Trigger Cold Sores

Although we’ve highlighted these foods, you don’t have to completely avoid them forever. Alongside foods that trigger cold sores, there are foods high in lysine to eat instead. Try avocado, certain fish, milk and cheese instead.

If you’re looking for more health advice, check out the rest of our posts.

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