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The Biggest Holiday Food Myth, Busted and It May Shock You!

by Aimee Aristotelous on December 09, 2019

I'm going to change up the blog this week and instead of giving some nutrition or weight loss tips, I want to address the biggest holiday meal nutrition myth as it is a bit of a fun fact and possible conversation starter. Spoiler Alert! I'll get straight to the point and just tell you--the tryptophan in turkey doesn't actually make you sleepy. You may have heard about this ironic contradiction already, but if you haven't, you are probably wondering where I'm coming from.

So, here's the deal--tryptophan is an amino acid that is associated with serotonin which is linked with healthy sleep but the thing is, there is no more tryptophan in turkey than there is in any other poultry or red meat. Tryptophan does get converted into the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin but the fact of the matter is that turkey really doesn't contain enough to make a considerable difference in terms of being a true snooze catalyst. In fact, gram for gram, cheddar cheese actually contains more tryptophan than turkey does! Back in the 1980s, there were concentrated tryptophan supplements that were used as a sleep aid, however, they had to be concentrated in much larger amounts than the amount in turkey to be deemed effective.

You may be asking yourself why you feel so sleepy after a holiday meal then? It really has nothing to do with the turkey but more to do with the over-consumption of two other food groups--high-glycemic carbohydrates and alcohol. Even if you're not an alcohol drinker, the carbs found in mashed potatoes, stuffing, and sweet potatoes topped with roasted marshmallows will do the trick. Consuming these foods leads to a massive insulin release, followed by a blood sugar crash which can leave one feeling bloated and lethargic. 

So, there you have it--if you're still a little perplexed about this turkey tryptophan phenomenon (or lack there of), check out some sources online and you'll see that many medical professionals say the same. And like I mentioned earlier, we normally provide a variety of weight loss and nutrition tips in the Doctor's Best Weight Loss Blog, but I thought this was a fun and interesting topic, given the holiday season. Check back later this week for my low-calorie, low-sugar holiday beverage guide! 

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