Tryptophan And Happiness: Here Are Some Great Foods That Boost Your Serotonin Levels
By Kurtis Bright
Long Considered the Scourge of Thanksgiving, Tryptophan Can Actually Help Regulate Your Serotonin
It’s tough to shake a bad reputation. Just ask Tryptophan. The relatively common amino acid, which is found in turkey and numerous other foods, was long thought to be the primary cause of a sleepiness that strikes after eating the traditional meal on the U.S.’s annual Thanksgiving Day.
Every year, Thanksgiving would come around again, and all people would talk about the tryptophan in turkey, so much that your Uncle Ralph was perfectly justified in falling asleep on the couch while watching football.
Like may myths surrounding food, the reality is both more simple and more complicated than that. Yes, tryptophan does indeed help boost your serotonin levels, which is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, a sense of well-being and is partly responsible for helping us to sleep soundly.
But the thing is there are many foods that contain much higher levels of tryptophan than turkey. A more likely culprit for Uncle Ralph’s snoring and drooling on his sweater by halftime of the Detroit Lions game is perhaps simply because he ate so much high starch, high glycemic index food at one sitting and thus suffered a massive sugar crash. A couple of atypical afternoon beers never hurt either.
However, when considering trying to avoid tryptophan, it is important to keep in mind that, as mentioned above, it not only helps us sleep, it is also essential for keeping our moods stable, helping us produce niacin, and for promoting growth and development. Tryptophan comes with a recommended daily dose of 4 mg per kilogram of body weight, or 1.8 mg per pound, meaning that a person weighing 70 kilograms or 154 pounds should consume 280 mg of tryptophan per day.
But you don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to roll around again to get your tryptophan fix. Start with these:
- Pumpkin seeds - One unassuming little ounce of these guys contains a whopping 50 percent of the U.S. recommended daily allowance for tryptophan. Other seed sources include chia seeds, sesame seeds, pistachios and sunflower seeds.
- Soya-based foods - Edamame, which is simply the Japanese name for roasted or blanched soybeans are also a great source for tryptophan. Products made from soya like tofu and soybean sprouts are also loaded with tryptophan.
- Cheese - One cheese stands out, good old mozzarella, which is remarkably high in tryptophan, ringing up 160 mg per ounce, or over 56 percent of the U.S. RDA.
- Lamb - You know how you feel so at peace and satisfied after a big meaty meal? There’s a reason for that. All meat, but lamb especially contains a lot of tryptophan, up to 228 mg in a 55 gram serving, or 81 percent of the U.S. RDA.
- Chicken and Turkey - This may fall under the “duh” list. But what you might not have known is that chicken breast is actually higher in tryptophan than turkey, bringing home 343 mg per three-ounce serving to light up your inner happy place.
- Tuna - Tuna is another over-achiever in the tryptophan wars, with 95 mg per one-ounce serving. That may not be quite as high as chicken or turkey, but it makes a nice change. And there are other great tryptophan-containing fish including halibut, salmon and trout.