With ‘Turkey Day’ on the way it’s important to discuss the ever popular myth that turkey makes you sleepy!
For the past few decades, we’ve blamed post-Thanksgiving drowsiness on tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey meat. Is this really fair or should we be pointing our fingers somewhere else? Perhaps somewhere closer to our empty plates and full bellies? Tryptophan indeed is linked to drowsiness – that’s no myth. It’s a biochemical precursor to serotonin, which has a calming effect on the brain and body. But to put an ordinarily awake person into a state of slumber it would generally have to be consumed on an empty stomach, in combination with little no other protein (which limits the absorption of tryptophan by the body), and in amounts larger than are typically gobbled up during a holiday feast. L-tryptophan is also present in chocolate, some fruits, dairy, red meat and eggs. But we as a society don’t associate those food items with drowsiness. However, tryptophan is almost certainly not the cause of the Turkey Day food coma. The real culprit? It’s probably a combination of your body working hard to digest a large meal and a fervent desire to put off doing the dishes!