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

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 least common amino acids found in proteins.

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

Table of Contents

Tryptophan, Uncommon But Essential

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

The two most important functions of tryptophan are the production of serotonin and the production of melatonin by the pineal gland.

Tryptophan Is A Natural Sedative

Tryptophan is the precursor to 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 )

Deficiency Of Tryptophan

Tryptophan deficiency is common when the diet contains limited amounts of the nutrient.

There is also a disorder in which the body cannot make enough of the amino acid tryptophan.

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

Symptoms can include depression and sleep disorders. (source )

It can also give symptoms such as fatigue and muscle aches.

Some people who suffer from tryptophan deficiency also have deficiencies of other essential amino acids, including lysine, isoleucine, methionine, threonine, and valine.

Foods You Can Find Tryptophan In

You find Tryptophan mostly in American Indian and Alaska native food, dairy and egg, legumes, nut and seed, products.

Examples of food sources include

Foods 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

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

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