Tryptophan is an essential amino acid needed for general growth and development, the production of niacin (vitamin B3), and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is believed to play an important role in regulating sleep and mood, which is why turkey is sometimes attributed to making people sleepy. Here we are going to discuss tryptophan-rich foods.
What is Tryptophan?
Tryptophan is an α-amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. Tryptophan contains an α-amino group, an α-carboxylic acid group, and a side chain indole, making it a polar molecule with a non-polar aromatic beta carbon substituent.
Tryptophan Rich Foods
Whole Milk is one of the largest sources of tryptophan, including 732 milligrams per quart. 2% reduced-fat milk is also a good source, coming in at 551 milligrams per quart.
Canned tuna is another good source of tryptophan, including 472 milligrams per ounce.
Turkey and Chicken
Contrary to popular beliefs, turkey is a large source of tryptophan, but it is not 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.
Prepared oatmeal can also be a good source of tryptophan, with 147 milligrams per cup.
Though not as high in tryptophan as meat and other dairy sources, cheddar cheese contains 91 milligrams of tryptophan per ounce.
Nuts and Seeds
Peanuts, an example in this category, contain 65 milligrams per ounce.
Whole wheat bread can contain up to 19 milligrams per slice, and refined white bread can contain 22 milligrams per slice.
Chocolate can contain up to 18 milligrams of tryptophan per ounce.
Some fruits can also be a good source of tryptophan. For example, a medium-sized banana contains approximately 11 milligrams of it. Additionally, a medium-sized apple contains approximately 2 milligrams of tryptophan, while a single prune contains 2 milligrams of this amino acid.
Why You Need Tryptophan
Tryptophan has the lowest concentration in the body of amino acids, yet, it is vital for a wide variety of metabolic functions that affect your mood, cognition, and behavior.
Tryptophan elimination experiments have shown that tryptophan has a beneficial impact on:
- Memory skills
- Visual cognition
- Aggression control
Research trials have shown it to have possible benefits when treating sleep disorders, seasonal affective disorder, premenstrual discomfort, and reducing anxiety when quitting smoking. However, there is some disagreement on these results, indicating that more research is needed.