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What Is Tryptophan & What Foods Can I Find It In?

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3D-model of Tryptophan (src)

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that works in the biosynthesis of proteins.

Tryptophan is used as building blocks. Tryptophan is among the less common amino acids found in proteins.

But it plays an important structural or functional role whenever it occurs.

Tryptophan, Uncommon But Essential

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. It’s the least plentiful of the 22 amino acids. (source )

Tryptophan Is A Natural Sedative

Tryptophan is the precursor of both serotonin and melatonin.

Melatonin regulates sleep and wakefulness.

Serotonin regulates appetite, sleep, mood, and pain. (source )

Tryptophan is a natural sedative in the body and is also used by cells to synthesize proteins. (source )

Tryptophan Can Re-Converted

The body has limited abilities to regulate the amount of tryptophan in cells. When too much tryptophan is consumed, it breaks down in the body.

But can, under special circumstances, sometimes be re-converted if needed. (source )

Deficiancy Of Tryptophan

Tryptophan deficiency is common when the diet contains limited amounts.

It results in suppressed amounts of serotonin, melatonin, niacin, and other important molecules.

Symptoms can be depression and sleep disorders. (source )

Foods You Can Find Tryptophan In

You find Tryptophan mostly in american indian and alaska native food, dairy and egg, legume, nut and seed, products.

Examples of food sources include

  • Steller Sea Lion
  • Egg White
  • Soy Protein Isolate
  • Sesame Flour
  • Spirulina
  • Soy Protein Concentrate
  • Beluga Whale Meat

Foods That Contain Tryptophan In Our Nutrition Tool

You can find regularly updated top ranked lists of foods for over 200+ nutrients in our nutrition tool.

If you are interested in what foods contain the most Tryptophan we recommend you visit our tool.

Here's our top ranked list of foods that contain Tryptophan.

Sara Niemelä

co-founder Care Omnia, Head Content Creator


I’m a wife and a mother of three. I enjoy the outdoors, cooking, and spending time with my family.

Nutrition is my passion. I've spent thousands upon thousands of hours reading, analyzing, categorizing and comparing research studies.