Amino acids are the building block of proteins. There are 20 of them from which 9 are called essential amino acids. That’s not because they are of more importance but rather because our body is not able to produce them! As a result, we must ensure to get those 9 essentials amino-acids from our diet. In this article, we are focusing on one of them in particular: tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that must be obtained from the food we eat.
Why is tryptophan so important?
Simply put, it is responsible for the making of serotonin which is often called the ‘happiness hormone’. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates certain behaviour such as mood, sleep and satiety.
Without tryptophan, there would be no serotonin and without serotonin there would be no melatonin ‘the sleep hormone’.
Melatonin is derived from serotonin, so you can see how essential is tryptophan to the production of both serotonin and melatonin.
A lack of tryptophan can lead to the following symptoms:
- Lack of appetite
- Difficuties learning
- Poor memory
- Mood disorders
- Depression and anxiety
- Digestive issues
Can our body produce tryptophan?
Unfortunately, not! We possess 20 amino acids and of those 20, 9 must come from the food we eat. The reason why they are called ‘essential‘ is because it is essential that we get them from our environment and tryptophan is one of them.
Where can we find it?
This essential amino acid is most commonly found in food of animal origin such as red meat, turkey, fish, cheese and eggs. However, it is also present in plant-based food and individuals following a vegetarian or a vegan diet must ensure that they consume those foods which are high in tryptophan.
Find the list of plant-based food high in tryptophan below:
- Pumpkin and Squash seeds, cashew nuts, chia seeds, sesame seeds, almonds.
- Soya products, such as tofu, tempeh, sprouted soya beans.
- Wheatgerm and wheat grass, oat bran, whole oats (147 milligrams per cup).
- Cacao (raw is best)
- Beans and legumes (especially lentil and white beans)
The recommended daily amount of tryptophan is between 250 and 425mg/day. This will vary from person to person, depending of the level of activity, or if a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding. Usually, people tend to get more than the requirement so I wouldn;t worry to much but just remember to consume a varied diet with plenty of veggies, fruits, grains, pulses and nuts to get all the nutrients your body needs. Why? Because most nutrients work in synergy, they need each other to perform to their best!