Before discussing what tryptophan is, we have to know about neurotransmitters and serotonin
The human brain relies on the well-composed action of over one hundred neurotransmitters. As a result, some of them have a profound effect on our cognitive performance and mental capacities. For instance, one called serotonin influences our sleep patterns, appetite, emotional stability and in addition to that, it also effects our memory.
As it turns out, neurotransmitter abnormalities can be a major reason for many cognitive issues. For example a marked reduction of serotonin is a typical finding in patients with depression, which in turn can also effect memory and attention.
So what can be the reason behind the low level of neurotransmitters? You guessed it: poor nutrition. Every time there is need to carry one of the brain’s messages, our body produces neurotransmitters. They report for duty when a message presents itself and disappear again once their mission is complete. This process heavily depends on several nutrients extracted from our food. Consequently the production of neurotransmitters respond quite fast to changes in our diet. 1
The importance of serotonin
Neurologists mainly associate serotonin with our moods. When the brain produces low levels of this neurotransmitter, the risk of diseases such as depression and anxiety significantly increases. Serotonin also plays in important role in sleep and appetite regulation. 2
Less well-known is that its depletion can also be responsible for some aspects of the memory impairments associated with advancing age and dementia.1 Proper nutrition is the essential fuel for serotonin production. The brain can only produce it if it has enough available tryptophan. 3
Finally! What is tryptophan?
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. As a result our body can’t produce it without the adequate food that we eat on a daily basis. There are two types of tryptophan: L-tryptophan and D-tryptophan. The only difference between the two types is the orientation of the molecule. According to the current dietary guidelines, the average adult, man or woman, needs 5 mg of tryptophan per kilogram of body weight daily. 4
Top 10 foods that provide us with tryptophan
In general, tryptophan found in many different foods. Here is the list of the most powerful sources:
- Chia Seeds
- Whole milk
- Sesame seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Raw cacao
- Wheat Bread
The number one: Chia Seed
Chia is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.” In fact, ancient Aztec and Mayan warriors literally survived on rations of chia at times, as did long-distance runners and messengers.
Chia is one of Nature’s powerhouse plant-based foods. These tiny brown seeds are famous for their high nutritional value. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain over 200 mg of the tryptophan your brain needs to make serotonin, as well as a good amount of omega-3 PUFAs, minerals, and fiber.
Other important proven benefits of Chia:
- Massive amount of nutrient with very few calories
- Excellent source of antioxidants
- Almost all the carbs in them are fiber
- High in quality protein
- Can aid weight loss
- High in many bone nutrients, like for example calcium or magnesium6
It is also very easy to incorporate to your diet. You can add it to your morning oatmeal, a smoothie or to a salad. As far as price is concerned one of the best choices for a 1 LB pack is the Viva Naturals Organic Raw Chia Seeds. It is sustainably sourced, and completely unrefined that allow you to enjoy the full benefits of this ancient superfood.