One of the things often overlooked when people are trying to improve their overall health, have more energy, lose weight and sleep better is the importance of obtaining enough amino acids from different protein foods. Amino acids, including tryptophan, are considered the building blocks of protein. Without a wide enough array of them in your diet, you actually can’t survive, let alone thrive.
You must get all the essential amino acids (like tryptophan, histidine, leucine, and lysine) through your diet since you can’t create them on our own. There are nonessential amino acids that also have many critical roles in your body. Essential amino acids help your body produce the kinds that are nonessential, and together they’re important for building and repairing muscle tissue, helping with neurotransmitter functions, supplying your brain with enough energy, and balancing blood sugar levels.
Of these amino acids, tryptophan plays a very important role. So what is tryptophan and why we need it?
What is tryptophan?
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found naturally in a range of foods. Amino acids act as building blocks to make proteins. An essential amino acid means that it is something that our bodies cannot produce themselves and so must be sourced from the diet.
Tryptophan and Mood/Sleep/Diet
Tryptophan is needed to produce serotonin. Serotonin known as the “mood” hormone and is associated with happiness and relaxation. Serotonin is used to make melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps control your sleep-wake cycle and appetite.
Some good food sources of tryptophan include:
- Nuts and seeds – especially pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, cashews and almonds
- Soy foods – organic, non-GMO such as soybeans, tofu and tempeh
- Beans and legumes such as lentils, kidney beans and white beans
- Cheese such as mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan
- Meats like lamb, beef and pork (grass-fed)
- Chicken and turkey (organic)
- Fish – especially salmon, tuna, halibut, snapper and trout (wild caught)
Be sure to add some of these tryptophan-containing foods into your meal planning.
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