The 4 Foods Richest in Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid capable of improving the state of health by modulating psychological states.
The 4 Foods Richest in Tryptophan
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 26 March, 2023

Tryptophan is a non-essential amino acid that performs several functions in the human body. It’s able to improve the state of health by regulating parts of the body that determine rest and the degree of stress. It’s a substance that the body itself can synthesize, although it’s also possible to introduce it through food.

In recent years, the consumption of tryptophan supplements has become fashionable. It can be acquired alone or combined with melatonin.

Functions of tryptophan

This amino acid is linked to the physiology of rest and relaxation, as it acts as a precursor to serotonin. This is confirmed by a study published in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design.

Regular consumption can help reduce the risk of developing depression or anxiety disorders, which is effective in improving mental health. At the same time, it’s an amino acid that has a certain impact on the melatonin secretion pathway.

For this reason, its regular consumption has been shown to promote better sleep, reducing the number of interruptions during the night. This is effective for those who don’t rest well, increasing the effect when combined with melatonin itself.

It should be noted that there’s also evidence that it acts on neuronal function, improving synthesis by nerve cells. Even in some aspects of the immune system, it has some importance, so it’s an important substance in the body.

Why is it important to guarantee the consumption of tryptophan?

Despite all the physiological reactions tryptophan can participate in, this amino acid is considered important for its ability to prevent depressive processes. According to a study published in the journal Life Sciences, adequate intake and supplementation may be effective in preventing psychiatric problems.

At the same time, there’s evidence in the literature that the amino acid can generate positive responses during other types of psychiatry-related processes, all of a depressive or anxious nature.

It could be a substance capable of increasing the effects of pharmacology or even preventing more powerful drugs produce negative consequences. However, the last word is always best left to a specialist.

Foods rich in tryptophan

We are going to tell you which foods are richest in tryptophan, so you can include them in your daily diet.

1. Cocoa

Cocoa is one of the foods that we can find in nature with the highest tryptophan content. In addition, it’s characterized by the presence of flavonoids in its composition, which are able to regulate blood pressure.

In addition, cocoa contains healthy fatty acids, as well as other antioxidants capable of neutralizing the formation of free radicals. In the medium term, its habitual consumption is able to help in the prevention of various complex pathologies linked to inflammatory processes, such as cardiovascular ones.

However, it must be taken into account that many commercial chocolate varieties have a high percentage of sugar, as well as a small dose of cocoa. This damages the nutritional properties of the resulting foods. For this reason, always read the labels and consume the one that ensures at least 85% cocoa in its composition.

Cocoa rich in tryptophan.

2. Banana

The banana stands out for being one of the most tryptophan-rich fruits you can find. On the other hand, it is a good source of energy thanks to the presence of carbohydrates inside. Try not to eat them too ripe to take advantage of the starches, preventing them from turning into simple sugars.

In addition, the banana is also distinguished by the presence of potassium in its composition. It is a mineral capable of regulating blood pressure, exerting an effect that compensates for that of sodium. This is attested by the current scientific literature.

However, it’s important to avoid eating bananas at midnight. Consuming carbohydrates overnight, especially sugars, can negatively affect metabolic health, increasing the risk of developing insulin resistance.

3. Nuts

Nuts contain large amounts of tryptophan in their composition. They’re characterized by their content of proteins and fats, the most characteristic being those of the omega 3 series. Thanks to them, nuts are able to exert an anti-inflammatory effect.

On the other hand, these foods contain a large amount of vitamins and minerals. These substances perform different functions within the body, many of which are related to the maintenance of homeostasis.

It’s important to consume plain or roasted nuts, avoiding fried nuts. Frying can cause the spatial configuration of fats to change from cis to trans fats. This variation also affects its nutritional properties.

4. Dairy products

Dairy products have proteins of high biological value in their composition. They also have a large amount of tryptophan, which improves the quality of rest and the functioning of the central nervous system.

But within this food group, fermented milk products are more beneficial. These products contain probiotics, live bacteria capable of colonizing the intestinal tract, creating benefits for the host.

Thanks to them, mood can also be influenced, as the microbiota is linked to the brain. Thus, it is possible to generate a better state of relaxation in the medium term.

On the other hand, it should be noted that these foods also contain saturated fats, minerals and vitamins. Despite the fact that these types of lipids had a bad reputation for many years, they’re now beginning to be accepted as healthy. The danger comes when they’re cooked at high temperatures.

Dairy products with protein.

Other substances that enhance the action of tryptophan

As we have said, tryptophan is an amino acid capable of exerting positive effects on the central nervous system, but it is not the only substance with such properties. There are others that can act synergistically with the amino acid, amplifying its effects.

This is the case of melatonin, a neurohormone secreted in the pineal gland capable of controlling sleep and wakefulness cycles. Indeed, many dietary supplements on the market to promote rest contain doses of both.

Similarly, there is a metabolite of tryptophan itself, 5-HTP, which also promotes this state of relaxation. They can be taken separately or together, generating positive effects in people who frequently suffer from anxiety.

Tryptophan is an amino acid with multiple properties

As you have seen, tryptophan is an amino acid that has several implications in human physiology. It can be synthesized endogenously, although you can also increase its intake to generate a positive effect on the body.

The purpose of consuming this substance is usually to promote a state of relaxation and improve sleep quality, although it can be used as an adjunct treatment for depression, improving the results offered by the diet. However, in this type of situation, it’s advisable to consult your doctor first.

However, despite the fact that amino acid supplementation is possible, it’s often enough to increase the consumption of foods that contain them. For this reason, we have presented the four that contain the most tryptophan. Don’t forget that consuming them close to your bedtime generates greater production of serotonin.

If, even when including these products in your diet, you still suffer from psychological or rest-related disorders, don’t hesitate to consult a professional. Some dietary supplements can have a more noticeable effect.

Finally, you may even need to take medication for a while. Your doctor is the one who can best advise you in this regard, choosing the most advantageous option and the least risks.

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