Nov. 28--Today family and friends will gather around the table, and not unlike
the turkey they just ate, most of them will leave the table stuffed.
Blaming the tryptophan in the turkey for conking out on the couch afterward has
become a familiar ritual in many homes.
"Turkey does contain tryptophan, but so do many other foods, and no one relates
them to feeling sleepy," said Roba Bozakis, a registered dietitian at St. Luke's
If you blame your need to nod on the turkey, you will need to find another
The truth is out
If you have trouble believing Tom Turkey isn't to blame for your sluggishness,
ask yourself this: When was the last time you ever noticed anyone nodding off at
a backyard chicken barbecue?
"The truth is: Turkey has slightly less tryptophan than chicken," said Paula
Schott, a registered dietitian with Pocono Medical Center, East Stroudsburg.
What is tryptophan?
Your body must have tryptophan, and since the body can't make it, people need to
get it through their diet. "Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, and amino
acids are building blocks of protein," Bozakis said.
The amino acid is used by the body to make niacin, a B vitamin that aids in the
body's digestion and maintenance of skin and nerves.
The body also uses tryptophan to produce serotonin, which promotes a better mood
and a feeling of well-being.
"Both are things that tend to make people relax," Schott said.
The real culprit
The culprit is a combination of things, Bozakis said.
"One being over-consumption of carbohydrate foods such as, pies, bread, potatoes
and stuffing," she said.
When the body processes large amounts of carbohydrates, it releases insulin,
which triggers the uptake of most amino acids from the blood into the muscles.
However, tryptophan is not released into the muscles, and as a result, it is not
competing with other amino acids and can better make its way to the brain to
produce serotonin, Bozakis said.
Add the extra serotonin hitting the brain and the consumption of alcohol that is
often served during holidays, and there is a strong likelihood you will fall
And one more word of caution: After a bigger-than-average meal is consumed, your
risk of a heart attack increases, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. This is because if you have any form of coronary disease --
known or unknown -- the risk is elevated.
Sweet dreams, big eaters.
Sources of tryptophan
Paula Schott, a registered dietitian at Pocono Medical Center, suggests the
following foods as good sources of tryptophan:
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