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Foods High in Tryptophan |
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Foods High in Tryptophan

Amino acids help to create proteins that aid in neurotransmission messages to and from the brain. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that plays a vital role in this process. Tryptophan is a precursor of 5-HTP or serotonin which is acquired from dietary sources. Tryptophan combines with vitamin B6, transforming into serotonin and niacin in the liver. This helps to improve blood circulation, enhance memory and lower cholesterol, making tryptophan an essential amino acid to improve your overall health.

Foods High in Tryptophan

It is generally recommended that healthy adults consume 3.5-6mg of L-tryptophan for every kilogram of body weight throughout the day but there is a variance of how much a specific individual will require. Include a variety of sources of L-tryptophan in your diet to avoid a potential deficiency of this nutrient that can lead to liver damage or inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders which will limit your ability to absorb the nutrient properly. This may lead to complications.

Listed below are foods known to be high in tryptophan:



Milk and Milk Products


Traditional milk products, yogurt and soy milk



Mutton, venison, beef liver, calf’s liver, chicken breast, turkey breast



Halibut, cod, tuna, shrimp, mackerel, salmon, snapper, scallops



Cheddar processed cheese, cottage cheese, tofu, gruyere cheese



Apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, avocados, pineapple, peaches



Spinach, mustard greens, asparagus, eggplant, winter squash, green peas, kelp, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, cucumbers, potatoes



Walnuts, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, chestnuts, almonds



Ground flax, sesame, pumpkin, fenugreek, sunflower seeds (roasted)



Mung bean, soybeans, kidney beans, lima beans, chickpeas



Wheat, brown rice, red rice, barley, corn, oats

The L-tryptophan in food is bound in protein rather than free form. For every 100g of food, the following amounts of tryptophan can be found:


Total Protein


Tryptophan % of Protein


36.5 percent


1.6 percent

Sugar free cocoa powder

19.6 percent


1.5 percent


18.2 percent


1.6 percent

Raw chicken breast

21.2 percent


1.3 percent

Dried peas

24.6 percent


1.1 percent

Raw pork

21 percent


1.1 percent

Raw salmon

20.4 percent


1 percent


13.2 percent


1.4 percent


15.2 percent


1.1 percent

Chicken eggs

12.6 percent


1.3 percent

Brown rice

7.9 percent


1.3 percent

Corn flour



.7 percent

Cow’s milk



1.4 percent

Benefits of Food High in Tryptophan

  • Sleep Pattern. Sleep aids will frequently contain tryptophan because 1g doses of this amino acid can increase sleepiness and a decrease in the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Those that suffer from insomnia typically see improvements in the time they are able to stay asleep when they increase their tryptophan intake.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. This severe form of premenstrual syndrome or PMS can cause mental, physical and emotional symptoms that can be corrected by consuming 6g doses of tryptophan. This amino acid is particularly helpful in elevating mood during the period before the menstrual cycle.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder. This mood disorder causes people to have symptoms of depression when the weather becomes cold in the winter. These symptoms are consistent each year rather than appearing occasionally. Consuming 3g of tryptophan for two weeks can help to reduce the overall depression levels during this time.
  • Depression and Anxiety. Because tryptophan is essential to providing the body with adequate levels of serotonin, those that do not get enough of this amino acid in their diet may be more prone to depression. Studies have found that significantly increasing tryptophan levels can improve depression levels without side effects associated with many medications.
  • Medical Use. Consuming tryptophan may improve the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs. Consuming an additional 2-5g of tryptophan each day has been shown to improve the symptoms of those taking fluoxetine without having to increase the dosage of this medication.

Increasing Tryptophan Levels

Tryptophan deficiencies can lead to weight loss in children and infants and pellagra that is brought on by the subsequent vitamin B3 deficiency. This can be caused by nutritional impairments, malnutrition or alcoholism. This disease causes a defect that limits the body’s ability to convert tryptophan into niacin that will eventually lead to mental disorders, erythema, gastrointestinal disturbances and nervous disorders. It will also lead to a drop in serotonin levels that may cause difficulty concentrating, irritability, depression and anxiousness.

In order to combat these concerns you can increase foods that are high in tryptophan, preferably consuming these foods on an empty stomach, or consult your doctor about taking tryptophan supplements. Consuming tryptophan heavy foods on an empty stomach will cause the body to release insulin that will clear other amino acids from your system so that the brain can easily access this store of tryptophan. Consuming the foods listed above as part of your regular diet will naturally improve your serotonin and niacin levels to ensure that you are able to relax, sleep naturally and regulate your appetite without difficulty.