Which Foods Contain Tryptophan?

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  • Written By: Jessica F. Black
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 11 December 2019
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Many foods contain tryptophan (TRP), a primary amino acid in the human diet that promotes sleep, and it is often measured in milligrams (mg) per 200 calories. A less global dish that has one of the highest amounts of tryptophan is sea lion (2,580 mg), but many universal foods contain tryptophan, a vital amino acid. The essential food categories containing TRP are red meats, poultry, dairy, vegetables, wheat/grains and seafood. These categories all have an individual component that is highest in TRP. The amounts of tryptophan consumed can be altered by balancing a meal with foods that have drastically different TRP measurements.

The highest amount of tryptophan in red meat is found in a top round roast (426 mg) and its byproducts, such as london broil and round steak. Among the lowest amounts of TRP in red meat is the pan-browned hamburger patty (64 mg). Roasted turkey ranges between 481 milligrams for wings to 509 milligrams for breasts.

Roasted chicken has a similar amount of 474 milligrams. The skin alone from both birds contains 70-80 milligrams of tryptophan. Lobster, shrimp and crabs are all sources high in TRP, lingering around 570 milligrams. Most sliced sandwich meats are high in tryptophan, including fat-free oven-roasted chicken breast (463 mg), extra lean ham (434 mg), turkey pastrami (305 mg) and rotisserie turkey (275 mg).


Eggs, milk and various cheeses all contain more than 200 milligrams of tryptophan. Dried egg whites have 523 milligrams, mozzarella cheese with part skim milk has 399 milligrams, and fat-free or skim milk has 274 milligrams. Powdered milk and egg substitutes also are a sources of TRP. Raw seaweed has the largest amount of tryptophan among vegetables, but cooked turnip greens (400 mg) and spinach (594 mg) are easier to purchase at local supermarkets. Oat bran, raw or cooked, is made up of at least 250 milligrams of TRP.

The benefits of having a high tryptophan diet, aside from inducing sleep, is to prevent depression, minimize mood swings associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), weaken the onset of migraines and improve one's overall health. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin, which is essential to brain function improvement. The general recommendation of TRP consumption ranges from 500-2,000 milligrams per day, and the suggested frequency of intake is three times a day.


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Post 3

Wow, I didn't realize that tryptophan is found in so many different foods. I guess eating a balanced diet of natural, wholesome food is enough to get much needed tryptophan.

I suffer from insomnia and was looking into tryptophan supplements. But I read that the supplements can have side effects. So I prefer to take tryptophan the natural way through food. I haven't been eating too well lately, so I think if I eat better, my sleep issues will resolve.

Post 2

@ysmina-- Turkey is a great source of tryptophan but experts still argue whether that's the reason we feel so sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner. Some say yes and others say no.

As far as I know, chicken has as much tryptophan as turkey if not more. But I don't feel as tired after eating chicken as I do after turkey. So maybe tryptophan isn't the cause. But eating these foods on a regular basis will help regulate sleep in general. Not just sleep, tryptophan also helps with the production of serotonin, which gives us feelings of wellness and happiness.

I personally think that tryptophan is what makes us sleepy after eating turkey. That's why I reserve poultry for dinner.

Post 1

Whenever I eat turkey, I feel very sleepy. Is it because turkey is a good source of tryptophan? I always take a nap after Thanksgiving dinner. I used to think that it was because of overeating. But I've noticed that I feel sleepy after having other types of meals with turkey too, like turkey sandwiches.

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