I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving – especially the food. Each year I look forward to piling my plate with turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and let’s not forget the pie! But soon after the meal I find myself spread out on the couch ready for a nap. Was it my overindulgence – or is turkey the culprit?
Turkey is a good source of Tryptophan. According to WebMD, Tryptophan is needed for the body to produce serotonin. Serotonin is used to make melatonin, a hormone that helps to control sleep and wake cycles. As it turns out, turkey contains no more of the amino acid tryptophan than other kinds of poultry.
According to Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness, it’s a myth that eating foods high in Tryptophan boosts brain levels of Tryptophan and therefore brain levels of serotonin.
Somer says that proteins like turkey, chicken, and fish, which are high in Tryptophan, require assistance from foods high in carbohydrates to affect serotonin levels. Eating turkey alone may not send you off to dreamland. But when combined with potatoes and biscuits and stuffing, dreamland is just around the corner.
So have your turkey, Somer says, because it will increase your store of Tryptophan in the body, but count on the carbs to help give you the mood boost and the restful sleep.