5 (Non-Turkey) Sources Of Tryptophan And Why You Need It

By Alex Frost

If you are struggling with sleep, appetite, moodiness, pain, and more, there’s a superhero amino acid that may be able to come to your rescue with a few easy diet changes. Tryptophan, most well-known for putting people to sleep after a Thanksgiving turkey dinner, is found in many other foods, and not only regulates your sleep-wake cycle, but is also responsible for boosting serotonin, your “feel good” hormone tied to all the above concerns, according to Medline Plus. In addition, your liver loves tryptophan because it can convert it into Vitamin B3 (Niacin), potentially lowering your cholesterol and risk of heart disease.

Your body needs a little help from you to consume enough tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid that babies need as well, and it’s even being studied in adults to treat depression, stress, PMS, and a variety of behavioral disorders, according to Core Psychiatry. To give yourself a Tryptophan boost, without the hassle of the Thanksgiving feast, check out these foods.

1. Nuts

According to Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (better known as the famous Paleo Mom), nuts are an essential part of a Tryptophan-friendly diet. She says they serve as a “precursor to serotonin and can reduce symptoms of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as improve sleep and increase feelings of tranquility.” Sounds like a huge benefit from a quick snack swap. Those highest in the feel-good acid include cashews, peanuts, and others.

2. Seeds

Some people are already getting enough Tryptophan, as the average recommended dose is only 250 to 425 milligrams per day. If not, seeds can be a quick and easy snack to integrate more of it into your diet, and make for convenient and easy snacking. Chia seeds are an excellent option and can be added to smoothies, yogurt parfaits, cereal, or on a pudding. Pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds are also easy to keep at your work space to snack on throughout the day. They are also the primary ingredient in Gratisfied Empower Bars, making consumption super convenient.

3. Eggs

Research has shown that starting your day sunny side up can have major health benefits, including tryptophan. Before you jump on the egg white bandwagon, keep in mind that the yolks themselves also include other major nutrients and antioxidant properties you don’t want to just pitch. Whether you prefer scrambled, fried, or hard boiled, don’t forget to add some eggs to your daily diet.

4. Fish

Is there anything salmon can’t do? This superfood also contains high tryptophan levels, in addition to a variety of other health benefits such as cholesterol and blood pressure control. At 472 milligrams per ounce, just a small amount of canned tuna can go a long way as well, and also makes for a simple snack.

5. Chicken

Just like turkey, it’s more Tryptophan-popular competition, chicken has a similarly high dose of multiple amino acids, including 350-390 milligrams of L-triptophan, Livestrong reports. While red meat eaters can gain similar levels, chicken, turkey, and fish have lower saturated fat content (which can contribute to higher cholesterol, kind of defeating one of the great purposes of eating Tryptophan-dense foods).