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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.
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.

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

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).

SourceAmountTrp Content
Milk1 cup0.09 gm
Soy Milk1 cup0.05 gm
Yogurt1 cup0.07 gm
Eggs10.08 gm
Beef Liver½ cup0.36 gm
Mutton½ cup0.24 gm
Venison½ cup0.36 gm
Chicken Breast½ cup0.49 gm
Calf's Liver½ cup0.25 gm
Turkey Breast½ cup0.38 gm
Cod½ cup0.29 gm
Tuna½ cup0.38 gm
Halibut½ cup0.34 gm
Sardines½ cup0.25 gm
Mackerel½ cup0.25 gm
Shrimp½ cup0.33 gm
Snapper½ cup0.38 gm
Salmon½ cup0.35 gm
Scallops½ cup0.35 gm
Cottage Cheese1 slice0.09 gm
Cheddar Cheese1 slice0.12 gm
Gruyere cheese1 slice0.11 gm
Tofu½ cup0.14 gm
Bananas10.046 gm
Strawberry½ cup0.013 gm
Oranges10.17 gm
Blueberries½ cup0.014 gm
Pineapple½ cup0.008 gm
Avocados10.03 gm
Peach10.02 gm
Peanuts½ cup0.09 gm
SourceAmountTrp Content
Mustard Greens1 cup0.03 gm
Winter Squash1 cup0.03 gm
Eggplant1 cup0.01 gm
Spinach1 cup0.07 gm
Broccoli1 cup0.03 gm
Green Peas1 cup0.05 gm
Kelp½ cup0.01 gm
Cabbage1 cup0.01 gm
Onions1 cup0.02 gm
Tomatoes1 cup0.01 gm
Mushrooms½ cup0.02 gm
Cauliflower1 cup0.02 gm
Potatoes10.07 gm
Cucumber1 cup0.01 gm
Lima Beans1 cup0.17 gm
Soybeans1 cup0.39 gm
Kidney Beans1 cup0.18 gm
Mung Bean1 cup0.19 gm
Chickpeas 1 cup0.14 gm
Pumpkin Seeds½ cup0.17 gm
Fenugreek Seeds½ cup0.04 gm
Sesame Seeds½ cup0.12 gm
Ground Flax Seeds½ cup0.53 gm
Sunflower Seeds½ cup0.10 gm
Brown Rice1 cup0.06 gm
Wheat1 cup0.09 gm
Corn½ cup0.02 gm
Barley1 cup0.12 gm
Oats½ cup0.12 gm
Walnuts½ cup0.12 gm
Asparagus1 cup0.04 gm
Millet1 cup0.07 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 Buzzle 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.