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.