We all want to have a good nights sleep, be in a good mood, to have as little general anxiety as possible, and to lead a happy and joyous life. That is no doubt more easily said than done. This article shares information about eating tryptophan foods to help you sleep
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is important for the production of serotonin in the body.
And what does serotonin do – it is a neurotransmitter (or chemical messenger) that controls and stabilises your mood and functions in your brain.
Neural pathways connect your enteric nervous system and your brain, and each affects the other — think of butterflies in your tummy when you are nervous, or having to continuously go to the loo when you’re anxious.
Flare-ups of IBS in your gut can be caused by stress or anxiety from your brain.
We cannot make tryptophan in our bodies, so must obtain it from our diet.
Serotonin is also crucial to the functions of our digestive systems.
Our gut produces about 95 percent of the serotonin in our bodies, and changes in our serotonin level affect our gut, as well as our brain.
The enteric nervous system is a semiautonomous nervous system located in our gut. It’s embedded in the lining of our gastrointestinal system, from our oesophagus to our anus, and hundreds of millions of nerve cells direct movement through it. It can perform some tasks on its own, independent of the brain, such as coordinating reflexes and secreting enzymes, one of which is serotonin.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an essential way to getting a good nights sleep, and supporting mental as well as physical health. Including sources of tryptophan in the diet can have positive benefits on energy levels, mood, and sleep
Tryptophan, which goes into making serotonin, is commonly found in foods that contain protein. Although meat is often a key source of protein for many people, there are also vegetarian and vegan sources.
The following foods are good sources of tryptophan that will boost serotonin:
- Sea Food
Shrimp, halibut, tuna, sardines, cod and salmon in particular
oily fish and is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support strong bones, healthy skin, and eye function.
Salmon is also a source of vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones and teeth, and healthy muscles.
Eating two portions of oily fish per week should provide enough tryptophan for most people.
Chicken, goose and turkey contain tryptophan, turkey has a little more tryptophan that chicken.
Some ways of cooking and preparing eggs are more healthy than others. Frying an egg adds a lot of fat, which makes it a less healthy option.
Boiling or poaching an egg does not add any additional fat. Making an omelet and eating it with a salad can be a good option for a light meal.
Spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, asparagus, onions, and seaweed, are a source of tryptophan.
Spinach is also a good source of iron. Iron helps the body to make healthy red blood cells. A lack of iron in the diet can lead to anaemia, low energy, or difficulty breathing.
Flax, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower,are a good source of tryptophan and protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Some easy ways to eat more seeds include:
- sprinkling seeds onto a salad
- mixing nuts and seeds for a snack
- choosing seeded bread<
- adding seeds to cereal, porridge, or yogurt
- Soy products
Products containing soy, such as tofu, soya milk, or soy sauce, are a source of tryptophan. These can be a good option for vegetarians and vegans.
Cashews, peanuts, almonds, walnuts are a good source of protein, healthy fats, and fibre.
Snacking on a few nuts between meals can help us to feel fuller for longer.
- Cruciferous vegetables
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, collard greens, turnips, watercress, wasabi, cabbage, horseradish and Brussels sprouts all contain tryptophan.
Kidney beans, lima beans, black beans split peas, chickpeas contain tryptophan.
- Dairy products
Milk, yogurt, and cheese contain tryptophan.
An option if you don’t get on with cow’s milk, is goat’s milk. It is more easily digested by some because its protein molecules are sized differently than cow’s milk.
It has as much calcium as whole cow’s milk and contains more tryptophan.
On the downside goat’s milk contains lactose, eliminating it as a choice for some.
Apples, bananas, peaches and avocado are good sources of tryptophan.
Wheat, rice, barley, corn, and oats contain tryptophan.
Lots of foods contain tryptophan, the trick is to find what foods suit your body. Wheat and dairy are contentious subjects at the moment, with people (myself included) reacting negatively to food containing wheat and cow’s milk.
The bottom line is, find what food is good for you, food that your body doesn’t react negatively to in any way. Choosing whole foods that are NOT refined in any way is a smart way to start.