Did you know that turkey contains a high amount of tryptophan? What is its function? It is an essential amino acid that cannot be synthesized by the body and is obtained mainly through food as it is naturally found in animal and plant proteins.

The human being “needs a total of 20 amino acids, of which nine are not capable of synthesizing by themselves and must be provided by the diet. These nine are the so-called essential amino acids and if only one of them is missing, it will not be possible to synthesize any of the proteins in which said amino acid is required”.

Thus, tryptophan contributes to the normal growth of children and to the production and maintenance of proteins, muscles, enzymes and neurotransmitters in the body, as explained in MedlinePlus, the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

But how does the body use this amino acid? First, it is involved in the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Similarly, it helps produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate appetite, sleep, mood and pain.

On the other hand, “the liver can also use tryptophan to produce niacin (vitamin B3), which is necessary for energy metabolism and DNA production,” they add. But in order for tryptophan to be converted into niacin, the body must have sufficient amounts of iron, riboflavin and vitamin B6.

What can we eat to obtain this amino acid?

Most foods that contain high levels of protein are also usually composed of a considerable amount of tryptophan. These are some of the richest in this amino acid:

  • Eggs.
  • Dairy products such as cheese or milk.
  • Blue fish, such as salmon, emperor or sardines.
  • White meat like chicken or turkey.
  • Dried fruits like peanuts, nuts or almonds
  • Seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Cereals, especially whole grains.
  • Vegetables such as beans, chickpeas or lentils
  • Fruits such as bananas or pineapples
  • Vegetables such as spinach or beets.

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