Tryptophan may sound like something out of a Superman comic but it’s not. Even so, it does have a bit of a superpower … it promotes better quality sleep and increases emotional wellbeing.

What is tryptophan?

It’s an essential amino acid that’s naturally found in some foods, particularly those that are high in protein. You’ll find good doses of tryptophan in meats like turkey, chicken and fish as well as cheese, milk, peanuts, tofu, lentils, soy, pumpkin, sesame seeds and chocolate.

The body can’t make tryptophan, so we have to eat tryptophan-rich foods in order to obtain it. When consumed, synthesises into serotonin in your body and serotonin is a chemical messenger that stabilises mood and helps with healthy sleep patterns. Studies have linked people who have mood disorders like anxiety and depression with low levels of tryptophan. When the body is low in tryptophan, the brain is low in serotonin. One important note though is that tryptophan is more readily absorbed if eaten along with carbohydrates.

How to add more tryptophan* to your diet

By incorporating tryptophan-rich foods into your diet, you may notice a positive effect on your mood, energy levels and sleep.

  • Munch on pumpkin seeds, pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds or hazelnuts for a snack.
  • Enjoy seeded breads and mueslis instead of those without.
  • Add cheese to your salads or to top pasta or pizza.
  • Choose chicken or turkey for your sandwich sometimes.
  • Try a piece of grilled tuna or salmon with a salad for dinner.
  • Lentil soup is hearty and satisfying in winter or add canned lentils or kidney beans to chilli or salads.
  • Keep hard boiled eggs in the fridge for when you need a quick snack (make sure you eat the yolks as that’s where the tryptophan is).
  • Replace a meat meal with tofu now and then such as in noodles or a stir fry.
  • A handful of prawns or a few oysters is a lush way to get more tryptophan in your diet.
  • Spread your toast with peanut butter instead of Vegemite sometimes.

Consuming supplements doesn’t always have to be by capsule, tablet or powder. Tryptophan is in so many delicious foods that it’s easy and enjoyable to boost your levels!

*Note: This is not an exhaustive list of tryptophan-rich foods. A Google search will bring up lots of other tasty options.