Falling asleep after the big Thanksgiving meal is a holiday tradition. Every Thanksgiving, the news will report how the tryptophan found in turkey promotes sleep. But most people don’t know what tryptophan is, why it promotes sleep, and what other benefits it may offer. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that everyone needs for physical and mental wellness. It is noted as essential because our bodies cannot make this amino acid and we must obtain it from our diet.
Tryptophan may be converted into Niacin; a B vitamin associated with heart health, repair DNA, and hormone production. Tryptophan is the precursor to the neurotransmitter Serotonin. Serotonin regulates our mood, appetite, and is associated with learning and memory. In fact, many psychotropic medications such as antidepressants or anti-psychotic medications increase Serotonin. For many individuals when their Serotonin levels are increased, they feel more at peace and happier. Serotonin is also converted into Melatonin. Melatonin is our sleep hormone that helps regulate our awake and sleep patterns.
But do you know if you are getting enough Tryptophan from your diet in order to maintain your mental health? You may be low in tryptophan, if you are experiencing symptoms such as:
Sugar or carbohydrate cravings
Now you may be asking what food contains tryptophan? Try tuna, chicken, red meat, shrimp, milk, mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese, soybeans, beans, lentils, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, asparagus, bananas, broccoli, apricots, and spinach. These are just some of the sources of tryptophan. In honor of the big holiday tomorrow: I recommend TURKEY or TOFURKEY!