Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that cannot be produced by the human body and must be obtained through the diet, primarily from animal or plant-based protein sources. Tryptophan was discovered in the early 1900s after it was isolated from casein, a protein found in milk. Its molecular structure was determined a few years later. Tryptophan plays a role in the production of serotonin, a mood stabilizer, melatonin, which helps regulate sleep patterns, nicotinamide, also known as niacin or vitamin B-3.
Over-the-counter use of synthetic tryptophan supplements was banned in the United States from 1989. However, tryptophan supplements were reintroduced in 2001.
Why Do You Need Tryptophan?
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. It is a precursor to a neurochemical called serotonin. Serotonin is involved in regulating your mood, anxiety, and depression.
Our gut produces 90% of our serotonin, so it’s not surprising that the food we eat affects our emotions. Low serotonin levels are linked to depression and disrupt your sleep and appetite.
Tryptophan has the lowest concentration in the body of any amino acid, but is vital for a wide variety of metabolic functions that affect your mood, cognition and behavior. Tryptophan elimination experiments have shown that tryptophan has a beneficial effect on:
- memory skills
- Visual memory
- Aggression control.
Research trials have shown possible benefits for treating sleep disorders, seasonal affective disorder, premenstrual discomfort, and reducing anxiety when quitting smoking. However, more research is needed on these results.
Simply put, if you regularly eat foods rich in tryptophan, your body will have enough tryptophan. Adequate tryptophan in your brain’s pool ensures optimal serotonin synthesis. This means you can get a good night’s sleep!
L-tryptophan vs. D-tryptophan
In your research on tryptophan, you may find mentions of both L-tryptophan and D-tryptophan. L-tryptophan is the type of tryptophan found in foods and supplements. In fact, our body only uses L-amino acids. Although D-amino acids are found in nature, they usually have different aspects that cannot be used by our body.
Foods Containing Foods Rich in Tryptophan
L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that cannot be synthesized by humans. It is typically found in both plant and animal-based proteins. Most people consume more than twice the amount actually needed, typically 900-1000 milligrams per day, with the US Recommended Daily figure being 250-425 milligrams per day.
Check out the lists below to find out how much tryptophan your favorite foods contain.
Foods high in tryptophan include poultry, seaweed, and beef.
Which Fruits Are Rich in Tryptophan?
Some fruits are also rich in tryptophan. Fruits such as banana, strawberry, apple, orange, blackberry, pineapple, peach contain essential amino acids.
|FRUIT||TRIPTOPOPHAN CONTENT (G/Cup)|
Source: USDA, USDA Food Composition Databases