Tryptophan plays a key role in the production of serotonin – a “hormone of happiness”, which, in turn, can be converted into melatonin – the substance that helps with sleep regulation.

The pineal gland is a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain. It produces melatonin, a serotonin derived hormone, which affects the modulation of sleep patterns in both seasonal and circadian rhythms.

Melatonin biosynthesis in humans involves four enzymatic steps from the essential dietary amino acid tryptophan, which follows a serotonin pathway: tryptophan -> serotonin -> melatonin

The “hormone of darkness“, melatonin is naturally produced in our brain in darkness and its blood levels determine the circadian (day/night) rhythms. Melatonin like a medicine can be taken in low doses at the appropriate time to improve sleep, especially for jet lag and shift work. Melatonin is contained naturally in some foods like oats, sweet corn, rice, tomatoes and bananas.

Foods highest in tryptophan

Below is a list of the top 10 foods highest in tryptophan which is presented as amount of milligrams per 100 grams of food with the percentage of recommended daily intake Daily Value – % DV.

1. Pumpkin seeds

10 Foods for a good night rest
576mg of tryptophan per 100g (206% DV), or 161mg of tryptophan per ounce (28g) (58% DV)

2: Soy

10 Foods for a good night rest
575mg of tryptophan per 100g (205% DV), or 161mg of tryptophan per ounce (28g) (57% DV)

3: Cheese

10 Foods for a good night rest
On average, 560mg of tryptophan per 100g (about 200% DV), or 150mg of tryptophan per ounce (28g) (about 50% DV)

4. Meat (lamb, beef, pork)

10 Foods for a good night rest
415mg of tryptophan per 100g (148% DV)

5. Chicken

10 Foods for a good night rest
404mg of tryptophan per 100g (144% DV)

6. Fish

10 Foods for a good night rest
335mg of tryptophan per 100g (120% DV)

7. Oats

10 Foods for a good night rest
335mg of tryptophan per 100g (120% DV)

8. Shellfish

10 Foods for a good night rest
330mg of tryptophan per 100g (118% DV)

9. Eggs

10 Foods for a good night rest
167mg of tryptophan per 100g (60% DV), or 84mg (30% DV) per egg (50g)

10. Beans and lentils

10 Foods for a good night rest
115mg of tryptophan per 100g (41% DV)
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