If you feel depressed, fatigued, and are suffering with insomnia, you may be experiencing an amino acid deficiency.
Essential amino acids are those proteins which we cannot produce on our own, and thus MUST obtain through our diet. There are 9 essential amino acids in total (phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine), but the one I find is the most common to be LOW, is tryptophan (or L-Tryptophan).
To be entirely accurate, it’s not tryptophan itself that you need so much as the byproduct that is produced by consuming it, which is 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan). The main benefit of this chemical is that it increases the synthesis of serotonin. Serotonin, the “happy hormone,” is what will ease depression, insomnia, pain, and even lower the risk of obesity. 5-HTP is even extracted and used in the treatment of seizures and Parkinson’s Disease! It’s a powerful little helper.
In case you think you’ve heard of tryptophan before, YES: tryptophan is abundant in turkey! If you live in America, you’re getting ready for that wonderful time of year now, the time when you gather with your family and then eat a pile of turkey. If you’re in Canada, we did all that two weeks ago. Regardless of when you indulge in these over-sized meals, you know the effect: bloated stomach, headaches, indigestion and probably a strange hungry feeling for days afterwards (that’s insulin raging strong!). Seems like a high price to pay for the happy, sleepy feeling you initially feel from eating turkey!
If you want that comforted and relaxed feeling, but without the uncomfortable side effects, I have good news for you.
Tryptophan can be obtained by eating lighter, plant based foods too!
For example, you can obtain 206% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of tryptophan from pumpkin or squash seeds, with the added benefit of still staying seasonal with your salad creations! Eat them on their own, or sprinkle them onto a kale salad. You will even find that pumpkin seeds can curb your sugar cravings, and your desire for simple carbohydrates like breads and pastas. (Tired of feeling like a slave to sugary foods? Get our sugar detox book here.)
In addition to pumpkin seeds, 130% of your tryptophan RDI can come from uncooked oat bran. If you eat dairy, simply mix some fresh or frozen berries into 2/3 of a cup of low-fat organic plain yoghurt and add 3 tablespoons of oat bran in the evening. When you wake up, you will have a delicious breakfast to set you up for a happy, productive day.
A third example of a plant that is extremely high in tryptophan is the soybean, which contains 200% of your RDI for tryptophan. However, because soy is often genetically modified (AND infamous for disrupting hormones / thyroid balance) we recommend only consuming soya products sparingly, maybe 1-2x per week. Note: the best form of Soya to consume would be organic and fermented Soy, i.e. Tempeh.
If all that doesn’t motivate you to find a source of tryptophan at your earliest convenience, I don’t know what will.
Maybe the fact that Tryptophan deficiency is ALSO often the root cause of over-eating / binge eating. Trying to lose weight (I know many of you are) but can’t stop binging on Carbs? This is common! And it’s often your brain’s way of trying to get serotonin QUICK!
Carbohydrates give your brain an almost immediate serotonin boost but it’s a fleeting boost, and it’s often at the expense of your waistline. The main takeaway: the reason you keep diving into that cookie bag, might not be because of your lack of will power. It could be that you are low inTryptophan.
Get your Tryptophan earlier in the day, and spare yourself that dreaded binge and sleepless night. Good to know, right?!
Want to know more about emotional eating, and how you can use your diet to pry yourself out of the dumps? Check out Emotional Freedom Ebook. It has everything you need to know about how food effects your hormone levels, mood, energy, and outlook on life.