Does Tryptophan in Turkey Cause Food Coma?

November 26, 2014 Edited by  
Filed under Digestion, Protein


You hear it every year around Thanksgiving time: the turkey is to blame for your after dinner food coma. But is that really true?

As with most things in internet nutrition lore – the answer is, “Not exactly.”

Tryptophan is one of the 9 essential amino acids that your body can’t process, so it needs to get from food.

Complete proteins contain all 9 essential amino acids, and all animal foods are complete proteins. Since turkey is an animal food, it falls in this category.

Tryptophan plays many roles in the body, but one thing it does is serve as a precursor to serotonin, a sleep inducing chemical. Hence…the turkey tryptophan and sleep connection.

But the reality is, there is no more tryptophan in turkey than in many other animal or meat products.

The real reason you’re probably falling asleep after Thanksgiving is because you’re sated (or oversated) and ready to start digesting all of those nutrients, including the tryptophan!

You can learn more about the tryptophan – and other nutrient content – of your favorite foods by using the USDA’s Nutrient Database sort by nutrient website search (select Tryptophan from the dropdown menu).

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