You've heard the rumor that turkey makes you tired. And, while you may know that people blame tryptophan for this phenomenon, you might not know what tryptophan is. It makes sense to think about Tryptophan now, as it's typically a popular word that pops up around Thanksgiving — despite the fact that many often eat turkey in some form year-round. By learning what tryptophan is, you can understand why everyone likes to use it as an excuse as to why naps often happen right after Thanksgiving dinner.
Tryptophan is also known in the world of science as L-tryptophan, and it's an essential amino acid. Besides turkey, it's found in a lot of the other food you love — all kinds of meats and cheeses are especially known for carrying it, which might just be why Liz Lemon is so fond of her "night cheese." In general, according to SF Gate, tryptophan helps our body make niacin, which is essential for digestion. It also helps create serotonin, which helps us rest a bit better and controls our moods. Surely those of you who suffer from an occasional bout of insomnia (all of us, really) are familiar with serotonin. In fact, it's so popular and important, that it's often sold as its own vitamin.
But, while tryptophan is often blamed for that sleepy feeling, it's not the sole reason as to why we're often tired on Thanksgiving. In fact, it's really low on the list. Stuffing our faces and spending the whole day cooking a meal for 12 people in the kitchen are probably the big culprits as to why we feel like snoozing after dinner. (If you woke up early to watch the amazing parade, factor that in as well.)
Also, it's been shown that chicken actually has more tryptophan than turkey — not something many normally hear about! Also surprising? Out of all of our amino acids, tryptophan is actually the one we're somewhat low on. We don't make tryptophan naturally, and depend on our diets to add it to our system.
So, next time you hear someone complain about tryptophan making them tired, break the myth and let them know that the amino acid probably just had a little to do with the sleepy feeling. Then, ask them to pass the turkey — after all, tis the season to make sure your tryptophan levels are in check.
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