Food Sources and Facts of Tryptophan


Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and is an integral part of dietary protein. Tryptophan, an amino acid present in some foods, can be converted to niacin in the body. It is an essential amino acid which serves various substantial purposes such as nitrogen balance in adults and growth in infants. It forms niacin which is crucial for formation of neurotransmitter serotonin. Tryptophan is of two types such as D-tryptophan and L-tryptophan.

It is used in biosynthesis of proteins. It contains a α-carboxylic acid group, α-amino group and a side chain indole which makes it a non-polar aromatic amino acid. It is essential for humans as the body cannot synthesize and should be obtained from diet. It is a precursor to neurotransmitter serotonin and hormone melatonin. Similar to other amino acids, tryptophan is zwitterion at physiological pH where carboxylic acid is deprotonated and amino group is protonated.

It also acts as a natural mood regulator with an ability to help body produce or balance some hormones naturally. Tryptophan rich foods or supplements helps to provide natural calming effects, counteract anxiety, promote sleep and burns more body fat. Tryptophan helps to excite release of growth hormones and lower food cravings for carbohydrates.

Food Sources of Tryptophan

Food name Weight (g) Tryptophan (g) DV%
Turkey 863 3 681%
Winged beans 182 1 227%
Soybeans 186 1 227%
Mozzarella cheese 132 0.727 165%
Cheddar cheese 132 0.722 164%
Sesame seeds 144 0.559 127%
Mung beans 207 0.538 122%
Whelk 85 0.525 119%
Lupins 180 0.520 118%
Yardlong beans 167 0.501 113%
Fish, tuna 146 0.476 108%
Goose 140 0.465 105%
Black turtle beans 184 0.464 105%
Kielbasa 370 0.455 103%
Butternuts 120 0.439 99%
Muenster cheese 132 0.432 98%
Hyacinth beans 210 0.418 95%
Monterey cheese 132 0.416 94%
Sardine 149 0.411 93%
Black walnuts 125 0.398 90%

Health Benefits of Tryptophan

Let’s take a look on health benefits of Tryptophan:

  1. Enhance sleep

Tryptophan has natural sedative effects which provides better sleep and improves overall health. Lack of sleep results low concentration or memory, depression, decline in motor coordination, weight gain, muscle aches and much more. It provides sound sleep by lowering problems related with insomnia or sleep apnea. L-tryptophan is found to be helpful in treating sleep problems. Supplements are helpful to reduce time required to fall asleep and promote mood day next by improving quality of sleep, lower teeth grinding during sleep and sleep apnea episodes during sleep.

  1. Uplifts mood

Tryptophan helps to provide sound sleep and is a natural mood lifter and prevents anxiety, depression and various negative symptoms related with high stress levels such as heart disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Studies shows that L-tryptophan converts to calming serotonin in brain and assist to make other essential amino acids available which turns to control moods and lower production of stress hormones.

Studies have shown that 5HTP is helpful in treating mild to moderate depression as well as medications such as fluvoxamine. Some research showed that low intakes of tryptophan significantly reduced certain brain activities which promote happiness and low serotonin levels are common in people with depression and anxiety. Results showed that patients successfully lower negative symptoms associated to mood disorders

  1. Recover from addictions

L-tryptophan supplements with 5HTP and St. John’s wort helps the people to overcome addictions by promoting serotonin or melatonin production. It is provided to people who are trying to quit smoking for improving effectiveness of conventional treatment programs which teach people to control impulses or their emotional states better.

  1. Lower migraine and headaches

Depletion of tryptophan worsens pain associated with migraines and tension headaches and also it could aggravate nausea or sleep problems experienced by various migraine sufferers. Increased brain synthesis of serotonin offers relief from migraine symptoms and headaches including sensitivity to light, pain and indigestion.

Supplements of tryptophan are helpful for those who are working towards losing weight. Increase level of serotonin promotes calmness, mind clarity, control impulses or cravings and better metabolic functioning which boost weight loss. L-tryptophan is required for synthesis of niacin through its role as provitamin and niacin is essential for conversion of macronutrients in diets such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats into useable energy which holds metabolism. Vitamin B3 is essential for cognitive functions including synthesis of essential neurotransmitters and enzymes which controls appetite. It is also beneficial for improving physical performance and combat fatigue. It is used by athletes to improve training results, lower anxiety and motivate people to reach goals.

  1. Promote cognition

L-Tryptophan is a chemical precursor to serotonin. Body converts L-Tryptophan into serotonin through multi-step process with the use of enzymes known as tryptophan hydroxylase or aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase. Study has been conducted on role of serotonin in cognitive performance and process of being fully explained in detail through ongoing research. Low level of serotonin are correlated to impaired cognitive performance especially formation of memory.  Moreover, researchers suggested using serotonin receptors as targets for promoting cognition in depression or Alzheimer’s disease. Yet relationship between serotonin, cognition and L-Tryptophan is not completely understood. Study has shown that L-Tryptophan affect cognition variably in different individuals.

  1. Good mood

L-Tryptophan and serotonin affects cognition as well as mood. Studies show that L-Tryptophan depletion varies effect on mood. An improved level of tryptophan is associated with better mood. People with low moods are prone to mood changes based on L-Tryptophan levels. Supplements of L-Tryptophan daily promoted emotional processing and enhance overall mood. Experiment conduced over 19 days and results shows improvement in mental alertness, feeling of happiness and boost mood. Its supplements promote sleep patterns.

  1. Stress relief

Besides enhancing mood, L-Tryptophan is used for lowering stress. It is a byproduct of improved mood and better sleep which results with the use of L-Tryptophan supplements. Studies conducted on effects of L-Tryptophan in stress on both animals and humans. Results observed were promising. It is believed that individual responses was observed to L-Tryptophan might be genetically predetermined.

  1. Increase metabolism

L-Tryptophan plays a role in managing weight and numerous studies are conducted with conflicting results. Yet, it does not seem that L-Tryptophan could lower weight directly. Study found that supplement of L-Tryptophan does not increase weight loss significantly in obese volunteers. Though the results were not significant statistically but slight decrease in total body weight was observed for eight studies that complete study with L-Tryptophan in comparison to those taking  placebo.

  1. Improve PMS

Breakdown of tryptophan by kynurenine pathway is affected by phase of menstrual cycle that could indirectly affect production of serotonin. After the ingestion of tryptophan, kynurenine was 40% higher during luteal phase than in follicular phase. Study was conducted on 37 patients which showed that supplementation of L-tryptophan promoted these symptoms in women with premenstrual dysphoria: mood swings, tension and irritability. L-tryptophan supplements improved mood by 34.5%

  1. Lower dementia

Study on 24 dementia patients showed that levels of serotonin in brain were lowered. Same study showed that dementia patients have less tryptophan absorption in comparison to healthy individuals. The patients with low tryptophan when supplemented with tryptophan increased absorption with mental improvement.

Tryptophan side effects

Seek for medical help if experienced an allergic reactions such as difficult breathing, hives, swelling of face, tongue, lips or throat.


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