Thought For Food

The Truth About Turkey and Tryptophan

November 24, 2016
It’s Thanksgiving Day!

Every year we hear the same folk tale, “turkey makes you happy and sleepy!” There is a small dose of truth to that, but the real story goes a little something like this…

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid (a building block of muscle) that’s converted into serotonin. Serotonin is what we all refer to as, the “feel good” hormone. So, we eat turkey, and turkey makes us happy! Right? Not quite. Here’s the part of the story everyone misses. Turkey, is high in protein, and protein actually blocks the synthesis of tryptophan into serotonin. What?! But how do we explain the food induced coma?! 

Enter the real hero of the day, carbs. Oh yea. The trick to getting your tryptophan is to eat carbohydrates alone with no protein at some point of your meal. This allows tryptophan to enter your brain and boost those serotonin levels. 

Although turkey does indeed have tryptophan, it does not contain a high amount. There are a handful of relatively low-protein, tryptophan-rich foods you can include in your diet like spinach and other green leafy vegetables, sea vegetables, soybeans, asparagus, cauliflower, and sunflower or sesame seeds. Here is a list of foods high in tryptophan!

The moral of the story?

Have yourself a guilt free carb loving turkey day, and more importantly, thank your loved ones for that happy trip your on. 

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