Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that plays a crucial role in various physiological processes within the human body. Most commonly known for its association with sleep and mood, it also offers a range of other benefits.
What is Tryptophan?
It’s an essential amino acid that the body cannot produce on its own and must be obtained through dietary sources. It serves as a building block for proteins and is a precursor for the synthesis of important molecules such as serotonin and melatonin. Tryptophan is involved in numerous physiological processes and is known for its role in promoting relaxation, sleep, and mood regulation.
Best known as a sleep inducing chemical, here are some other health benefits it delivers:
- Mood Regulation: It’s a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in mood regulation. Serotonin helps promote feelings of well-being and happiness. Adequate levels in the body can have a positive impact on mood and emotional well-being. Serotonin also plays a role in reducing anxiety and stress.
- Sleep Enhancement: The sleep benefits come from its role as a precursor for melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Consuming tryptophan-rich foods or supplements may promote better sleep quality and help regulate sleep patterns, making it beneficial for individuals experiencing sleep disturbances or insomnia.
- Cognitive Function: It’s involved in the production of neurotransmitters that contribute to cognitive function. It supports memory formation, learning, and attention span, and may help optimise cognitive performance and mental clarity.
- Immune System Support: It contributes to the production of immune cells and modulates the immune system’s inflammatory response, helping defend against infections and diseases.
Dietary Sources (other than Turkey)
Tryptophan can be obtained through a variety of dietary sources. Some notable sources of tryptophan include:
- Pumpkin Seeds (580 mg per 100g)
- Chicken (404 mg per 100g) and Turkey (270 mg per 100g), mainly the white meat
- Sesame Seeds (370 mg per 100g)
- Sunflower Seeds (260 mg per 100g)
- Salmon (210 mg per 100g)
- Almonds (210 mg per 100g)
- Chickpeas (220 mg per 100g)
- Kidney Beans (240 mg per 100g)
- Tuna (180 mg per 100g)
- Cheese (300-500 mg per 100g, highest in cheddar and mozzarella)
- Eggs (75 mg per medium egg)
With a recommended daily intake of 250 to 425 mg per day, it’s potentially easy to meet your dietary needs of tryptophan. However, not getting enough dietary Tryptophan is something that can have a major impact on your mental health. The most common side effect of a deficiency would be negative impacts on mood and well-being. If you believe you are at risk of a deficiency, consider modifying your diet or reaching out to a healthcare professional.