Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning your body can't make it so you have to get it from the foods you eat. It's sometimes blamed as the culprit behind the post-Thanksgiving dinner nap and credited as the relaxing chemical in a bedtime cup of warm milk. I've separated tryptophan fact and fiction for you and listed foods that are high in tryptophan. Here are some things to know:
- Your body needs tryptophan to make various proteins, the neurotransmitter serotonin and the B-vitamin niacin.
- There are two isomers of tryptophan, but your body only uses the L-stereoisomer.
- Just about any food you can name that is high in protein contains an appreciable amount of tryptophan. This includes meat, eggs, fish, milk, seeds, spirulina and some grains.
- Although it is an essential part of the diet, it's possible a diet low in tryptophan may extend your lifespan (or at least, that's how it works in rats), while an excess of tryptophan can lead to organ damage and an increased risk of developing insulin resistance.