Over the last 12 months I’ve become a lot more interested in the impact of diet on mental health. And where my passion for fitness has also increased, I’m trying to follow a healthy, nutritious diet as much as possible in order to achieve a strong body as well as a strong mind. I’m particularly interested in amino acids and although I’ll dissect various aspects of this as I continue to blog as there is just SO much to cover, and it’s all super interesting so I could waffle on for ages.
Speaking of which, please be under no illusion. I am not 100% healthy all the time. It wouldn’t be possible. I believe in moderation, and I believe in listening to what my body needs. I eat carbs, I eat some dairy, and I have ‘treats’. Balance is the key, and that includes exercise. If I’ve smashed the gym during the week and had decent meals throughout, I’m not going to be too hard on myself going out for brunch with the girls on a Sunday morning! Bring on the carbs!
So today I’m going to talk about something which is said to contribute directly to improved sleep, better moods and increased production of B vitamins. This is the happy little amino acid that is L-tryptophan.
What Does it Do?
It assists the body with the production and release of serotonin, which is the key hormone that promotes feeling ‘happy’. Lack of serotonin can not only lead to anxiety, depression, and mood swings, but irritability, poor memory and lack of motivation. Studies have gone back on L-tryptophan to the 70s, and it’s proven to help ease all of these symptoms.
L-tryptophan is an amino acid, which are the building blocks of protein. Your body cannot produce L-tryptophan itself, so you need to get it from an external source. Now, there are supplements you can take, but there is a so much to be found in food that most adults do not need additional intake.
When my anxiety and depression were particularly bad, I did try the supplements. Mainly because I wasn’t eating a healthy diet as I wasn’t taking care of myself at all, and I did notice a difference I have to say. But it’s always best to get nutrients direct from your food.
The recommended daily intake for L-tryptophan is 4mg per kilogram of body weight. So for example I weigh 54kg, so I need to aim for around 216mg of L-tryptophan per day. This sounds like an awful lot but when you look at how much you can find in portions of food it quickly adds up!
How do I get it?
Turkey: 120g = 350mg of LT
120 gram – (a standard turkey steak is usually about 170g) of turkey breast provides around 350mg of L-tryptophan
Crab/Prawns: 120g = 330mg of LT
One of the most nutrient rich (and delicious) sources of L-tryptophan with around 330mg per 120g serving.
Other fish such as salmon and tuna contain between 250 and 400 mg of L-tryptophan per serving depending on portion size.
Seeds: 1/4 cup (about 32g) = up to 110mg of LT
All seeds contain a certain amount however pumpkin seeds come in tops, at around 110 mg per 1/4 cup. Sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds and walnuts all contain over 50 milligrams of L-tryptophan per 1/4 cup.
Soybeans: 100 g = 535mg of LT
Clearly your not going to sit and eat 100g of soybeans, but 100g makes approximately 1 large glass of soy milk. Soy has many benefits, but also some controversy around it but I’ll leave this up to you to review, I’ve always got on fine with it personally.
Oats: 100g = 315mg of LT
Oats are so versatile and even if you aren’t a fan of porridge, you can make your own granola, add into smoothies or try oat milk. Such a quick and easy way to get your fix of L-tryptophan.
So for me, I’m having one of my favourite mood-boosting breakfasts, porridge with oat milk, berries and pumpkin seed topper. Full of amino acids! Weekend, I’m coming for you!! Or check out another amazing oats recipe – Cherry, Coconut and Poppy Seed Oats.