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Foods High in Tryptophan

Foods High in Tryptophan

Tryptophan cannot be synthesized by the human body, and as a result, needs to be introduced through our diet. This makes it a vital amino acid. The article coming up discusses a list of foods that are abundant in tryptophan.
Maya Pillai
Last Updated: Feb 20, 2018
You must be aware of the fact that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins that help in the neurotransmission of biochemical messages to and from the brain. One such essential amino acid that the human body uses to synthesize proteins is known as tryptophan.

Its Role: Tryptophan is a precursor of serotonin (5-HTP) -- the "feel-good" chemical of the brain. When you consume foods abundant in this essential amino acid, the serotonin levels in the body rise, but when you smoke, drink alcohol, consume products high in sugar, or have abnormally low blood sugar levels, then the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin gets reduced. Foods rich in vitamin B6 are required for the proper transformation of tryptophan into niacin and serotonin.

When foods containing this essential amino acid are consumed, it is converted into vitamin B3 (niacin) by the liver. The conversion of tryptophan into niacin balances the level of this vitamin in the bloodstream. It also helps to lower cholesterol, improve blood circulation, and enhance memory.

Tryptophan-rich Sources
These foods help in regulating the sleep patterns, appetite, and moods of an individual. Hence, tryptophan is used to treat various psychocerebral conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia. There are times when eating certain kinds of food makes you feel relaxed, peaceful, and at times, drowsy. For instance, some people feel tired after consuming grilled turkey. This is because turkey is a meat rich in tryptophan.

Mentioned herein are food sources that are plentiful in tryptophan.

Milk & Its Products
Drinking milk at night just before going to bed is a good idea. Tryptophan present in milk induces sleep. Soy milk and yogurt are also good sources of tryptophan.

Meat Both red and lean meat, such as beef liver, mutton, venison, chicken breast, calf's liver, and turkey breast are rich in tryptophan.

Fish Cod, tuna, halibut, sardine, mackerel, shrimp, snapper, salmon, and scallops are found to be rich in tryptophan.

Another tryptophan-constituent is cheese, which you can add to your daily diet. You could use its various kinds, such as cottage cheese, cheddar processed cheese, Gruyere cheese, tofu, etc.

Bananas, strawberries, apples, oranges, blueberries, pineapple, avocados, and peaches contain this essential amino acid and can be incorporated in your diet.

Peanuts, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, almonds, and chestnuts are examples of nuts enriched with tryptophan.

Asparagus, mustard greens, winter squash, eggplant, spinach, broccoli, green peas, kelp, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, potatoes, and cucumbers are good sources of this essential amino acid.

Lima beans, soybeans, kidney beans, mung bean (green gram), and chickpeas are high in tryptophan.

Roasted seeds of pumpkin, fenugreek, sesame, ground flax, and sunflower contain ample amounts of tryptophan.

Consumption of red or brown rice, wheat, corn, barley, and oats help to increase the tryptophan levels in the bloodstream.
Here's a table that will help you key out the foods that feature high in the concentration of tryptophan (Trp).

Source Amount Trp Content
Milk 1 cup 0.09 gm
Soy Milk 1 cup 0.05 gm
Yogurt 1 cup 0.07 gm
Eggs 1 0.08 gm
Beef Liver ½ cup 0.36 gm
Mutton ½ cup 0.24 gm
Venison ½ cup 0.36 gm
Chicken Breast ½ cup 0.49 gm
Calf's Liver ½ cup 0.25 gm
Turkey Breast ½ cup 0.38 gm
Cod ½ cup 0.29 gm
Tuna ½ cup 0.38 gm
Halibut ½ cup 0.34 gm
Sardines ½ cup 0.25 gm
Mackerel ½ cup 0.25 gm
Shrimp ½ cup 0.33 gm
Snapper ½ cup 0.38 gm
Salmon ½ cup 0.35 gm
Scallops ½ cup 0.35 gm
Cottage Cheese 1 slice 0.09 gm
Cheddar Cheese 1 slice 0.12 gm
Gruyere cheese 1 slice 0.11 gm
Tofu ½ cup 0.14 gm
Bananas 1 0.046 gm
Strawberry ½ cup 0.013 gm
Apples 1 0.29
Oranges 1 0.17 gm
Blueberries ½ cup 0.014 gm
Pineapple ½ cup 0.008 gm
Avocados 1 0.03 gm
Peach 1 0.02 gm
Peanuts ½ cup 0.09 gm
Source Amount Trp Content
Mustard Greens 1 cup 0.03 gm
Winter Squash 1 cup 0.03 gm
Eggplant 1 cup 0.01 gm
Spinach 1 cup 0.07 gm
Broccoli 1 cup 0.03 gm
Green Peas 1 cup 0.05 gm
Kelp ½ cup 0.01 gm
Cabbage 1 cup 0.01 gm
Onions 1 cup 0.02 gm
Tomatoes 1 cup 0.01 gm
Mushrooms ½ cup 0.02 gm
Cauliflower 1 cup 0.02 gm
Potatoes 1 0.07 gm
Cucumber 1 cup 0.01 gm
Lima Beans 1 cup 0.17 gm
Soybeans 1 cup 0.39 gm
Kidney Beans 1 cup 0.18 gm
Mung Bean 1 cup 0.19 gm
Chickpeas 1 cup 0.14 gm
Pumpkin Seeds ½ cup 0.17 gm
Fenugreek Seeds ½ cup 0.04 gm
Sesame Seeds ½ cup 0.12 gm
Ground Flax Seeds ½ cup 0.53 gm
Sunflower Seeds ½ cup 0.10 gm
Brown Rice 1 cup 0.06 gm
Wheat 1 cup 0.09 gm
Corn ½ cup 0.02 gm
Barley 1 cup 0.12 gm
Oats ½ cup 0.12 gm
Walnuts ½ cup 0.12 gm
Asparagus 1 cup 0.04 gm
Millet 1 cup 0.07 gm

* ½ cup = 4 oz.

Increasing Tryptophan Levels
A deficiency of tryptophan can lead to weight loss in infants and children. When the food consumed is low in this amino acid, it could lead to deficiency of vitamin B3, and this could lead to pellagra. Pellagra is a disease caused by a defect in the metabolic conversion of tryptophan to niacin characterized by gastrointestinal disturbances, erythema, and nervous, or mental disorders. It may be caused by malnutrition, alcoholism, or other nutritional impairments. A tryptophan-deficient diet can also lead to low levels of serotonin which, in turn, leads to depression, irritation, anxiousness, and low concentration levels.

Therefore, to increase the levels of tryptophan, you should consider the following:
  • Increase the intake of the above-mentioned foods on an empty stomach.
  • Consult a doctor before consuming tryptophan supplements.
When you consume these foods, the body immediately releases insulin to clear the amino acids, such as tyrosine, histidine, and leucine that compete and conflict with tryptophan from accessing the brain. Tryptophan is not affected by insulin, but only when the other amino acids are cleared by insulin, can it reach the brain easily.

Thus, upping the tryptophan levels in your body by making the above-mentioned food sources a part of your diet, helps produce niacin and serotonin naturally. This in turn, elevates your mood, regulates your appetite, allows you to relax, and also helps you sleep better.

Disclaimer: This NutriNeat article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by a medical professional on the subject.
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