9 Foods with Tryptophan
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is needed for the production of niacin, serotonin, and melatonin. Serotonin is needed to transmit nerve impulses from the brain and is essential in regulating mood. It also works in conjunction with melatonin to regulate sleep rhythms. The body cannot produce tryptophan, so it is essential that you get enough from your food. The following is a list of nine types of foods that contain tryptophan:
- Dairy products: yogurt, milk, cheese
- Protein foods: beef, pork, turkey, chicken, fish, shellfish, eggs
- Soy products: tofu, soy milk, soybeans
- Legumes: beans, lentils, chickpeas
- Whole Grains: oats, brown rice, wheat, wheat germ
- Nuts and seeds: hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Fruit: mangos, dates, bananas
- Vegetables: beats, kelp, spirulina, potato skins
- Cocoa: dry powder, dutch coco, chocolate
Food as Medicine
If you are feeling depressed or suffering from insomnia, maybe your serotonin levels need a boost. You could try antidepressants or sleeping pills to put your symptoms in check. But why not try some tryptophan-rich foods instead?
As you can probably tell from the above list, meat and dairy products are good sources of tryptophan. However, there are plenty of sources for vegans too. If you are a vegan, be sure to include a lot of legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products into your diet. Vegetarians can also add cheese, milk and eggs to the list of good sources of tryptophan.
The Turkey Myth
Can you have too much of a good thing? Anyone that has sat down to a big Thanksgiving meal has probably experienced the almost comatose state that follows. Everyone is quick to point fingers at the turkey (a good source of tryptophan). Contrary to popular belief, the level of tryptophan in turkey is about the same level found in all poultry. So why doesn’t chicken stir fry have the same effect? Blame it on the carbs!
How Carbohydrates Help
Combining foods that contain tryptophan with carbohydrates helps the body to better absorb the tryptophan. The reason for this is because eating high carbohydrate foods causes the pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream, which clears away the amino acids that compete with tryptophan. This allows the tryptophan to have a greater affect on the body. So, the stuffing, potatoes, biscuits and pie, typically eaten along with the turkey, all play a roll in producing fatigue. Of course over eating in general can produce a sedative affect.
High Tryptophan Meals
Some good tryptophan food combinations to try are: chicken salad on whole wheat bread, peanut butter and banana sandwich, chocolate soy milk, mango yogurt smoothie, shrimp fried rice, oatmeal with hazel nuts, grilled cheese on whole wheat bread, pita bread and humus, a roast beef sandwich with three bean salad, chili stuffed potato skins, eggs and toast, fish and chips, pork chops with mango chutney, and pumpkin bread with a glass of milk.
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