I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again: sleep is imperative. It’s practically the foundation of overall wellness. From eating balanced meals to having a proper nighttime routine, your daytime habits impact your sleep. Proper rest leads to a happier, healthier you. Although most people know sleep is essential, few prioritize it. In fact, it’s estimated that 70% of adults get insufficient sleep. And roughly 11% of adults report sleep woes every night. As a toddler mom and entrepreneur, I get it. As much as I try to prioritize it, quality sleep isn’t always in the cards. My secret weapon? Tryptophan. Trypo—what? It’s an essential amino acid. Key takeaway: foods high in tryptophan might just be what the (sleep) doctor ordered. Read on to learn about this powerful nutrient. Plus, healthy foods with tryptophan for better sleep.
What Is Tryptophan?
Tryptophan—or L-tryptophan—is an essential amino acid. It’s found in foods like animal protein, cheese, yogurt, eggs, nuts, and seeds. It serves several important purposes, like nitrogen balance in adults and growth in infants. Basically, it helps the body create proteins and certain brain-signaling chemicals. The human body gets all the tryptophan it needs via diet or supplements.
why do we need tryptophan?
Tryptophan is required to maintain adequate protein levels. This is especially important for infants. In newborns, tryptophan is essential for brain maturation. It also aids in developing hunger cues, satiation, and sleep-wake-rhythms. Tryptophan is found in breast milk, which is why it’s important for a nursing mother to eat foods high in tryptophan.
Melatonin and Serotonin for restful sleep
Tryptophan is the precursor to melatonin and serotonin. Once consumed, your body turns tryptophan into a B vitamin called niacin. Niacin plays a key role in creating serotonin. As you probably know, serotonin is associated with sleep. Niacin is also correlated with melatonin levels. In essence, tryptophan is necessary for both melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin helps regulate sleep-wake cycles, and serotonin is known to support appetite, sleep, mood, and more. When you eat (or supplement) L-tryptophan, your body absorbs it and converts it into these important molecules.
Does Eating Turkey Make You Sleepy?
Not exactly. Like melatonin, foods high in tryptophan can make you sleepy. However, that Thanksgiving turkey coma has less to do with the turkey and more to do with eating a variety of other foods that also contain tryptophan. Thanksgiving is a tryptophan gold mine. There is no more tryptophan in turkey than in other commonly served meats, like chicken and beef. Plus, tryptophan can really only make you rapidly tired if it’s eaten (or supplemented) without any other amino acids—and the protein in turkey contains plenty of other amino acids.
8 Foods High in Tryptophan
In addition to keeping blood sugar balanced throughout the day, consuming these foods with tryptophan might be the ticket to a better night’s sleep.
Whole milk is one of the largest sources of tryptophan, including 732 milligrams per quart. However, 2% reduced fat milk is also a good source, coming in at 551 milligrams per quart.
Wild-caught salmon is one of the healthiest foods, due to its high concentration of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains key vitamins. As a great source of protein, salmon also contains a lot of tryptophan. A 6-ounce fillet contains a whopping 570 mg (203% of the RDI).
About two servings of turkey contain about 410 milligrams of tryptophan—close to the daily requirement of this important nutrient.
Although turkey is a large source of tryptophan, it isn’t the largest. Light meat contains 410 milligrams per pound (raw) and dark meat contains 303 milligrams per pound. Chicken also contains high amounts of tryptophan, with light meat containing 238 milligrams per pound, and dark meat containing 256 milligrams per pound.
Eggs are rich in tryptophan. They also contain significant amounts of Vitamin A, B12, and selenium. One large hard-boiled egg provides 6.3 grams of protein and 27% of the RDI for tryptophan.
Given its high protein count, Greek yogurt is rich in tryptophan. Some personal trainers swear by Greek yogurt before bed.
As far as plant-based proteins are concerned, tofu is a wonderful source of tryptophan. Soy products contain plenty of this essential amino acid. For example, when you cook tofu, one cup of firm tofu packs an impressive 592 mg (212% RDI), and an 8-ounce glass of soy milk has 92 mg.
The nuts with the most tryptophan are cashews, pistachios, and almonds. Cashews are rich in tryptophan and magnesium, both essential for overall health and controlling mood swings.
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Thank you for supporting Wellness with Edie! This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider.