For most people, the word tryptophan conjures up Thanksgiving turkey and the drowsy feeling that often follows holiday dinner. The fact is, while tryptophan does increase relaxation, the drowsy feeling that follows Thanksgiving dinner is partially due to consuming much more food, and much more tryptophan-rich food, than normal. Plenty of other foods, primarily high protein foods like eggs, are also high in tryptophan, but aren’t going to make you feel as drowsy, unless you consume them in unusually large portions. The abundance of both tryptophan and protein is one of the health benefits of eggs.
Your body is continually converting nutrients like tryptophan into other nutrients and compounds that it needs to perform various functions, including regulating appetite, memory, learning, and endocrine and cardiovascular function. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is used for many of these functions, including the productions of such neurotransmitters as melatonin and serotonin that slow the brain’s activity and leave you feeling relaxed. If you ask most people what serotonin is, they’ll tell you it’s a chemical in the brain that’s linked to depression. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, and it does regulate mood, but it’s not just produced in the brain, it’s also produced in the intestines. In fact, 80-90% of your serotonin is produced in the intestines rather than the brain. Serotonin also helps to regulate more than just mood, some studies show that it can even shift behaviors, leading to more agreeable, less aggressive behaviors. In one study of adults who described themselves as ‘quarrelsome’, 1,000 mg of tryptophan three times a day led to the participants becoming more agreeable, and perceiving others as more agreeable. Another study, involving physically aggressive ten year old boys, showed that 500mg of tryptophan significantly reduced their aggressive tendencies, and improved ability to adjust their reactions to situations. As adrenal fatigue progresses, serotonin levels have been shown to drop significantly.
When you find yourself feeling anxious or having trouble sleeping, try having an omelet with cheese. The calcium in the cheese will help your brain use the tryptophan to produce melatonin. Up the soporific effects with a slice of whole grain toast. The complex carbohydrate will further slow your brain, while the protein in the egg and the fiber in the toast will keep you feeling full, so you don’t wake up hungry in the night.
Tryptophan is also converted into niacin, or vitamin B3, in those who do not get enough of this nutrient from their diet. It takes a whopping 60mg of tryptophan to synthesize a single milligram of niacin. Niacin is critical for digestive health and is used to extract energy from the food you eat. Niacin deficiency is associated with skin inflammation, impaired cognition, and digestive disturbances.
Eggs are not just a great source of tryptophan, they are also an excellent source of protein. With more than 5.5 grams of protein in every egg, other foods are compared to the egg when determining their value as a protein source. Just as important as the protein content is the specific makeup of protein in eggs. Eggs contain all the necessary amino acids in the right proportions to make them easy to absorb and use. Protein helps build strong, healthy muscles, and helps prevent muscle loss as we age.
In the past, patients with high cholesterol or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease were warned to limit their consumption of eggs to no more than two a week due to their cholesterol content. Recent research has found that eating eggs does not raise cholesterol levels in most people. In fact, about 38% of the fat found in eggs is the heart-healthy monounsaturated variety, while less than 30% of the fat is saturated. Eggs can also be a great food for those who do not or cannot eat seafood, as they are a great land-based source of omega-3 fatty acids most commonly found in oily fish.
Perhaps the least well-known health benefit of eggs is how they promote brain health. Eggs are an excellent source of choline, a vital nutrient to the development of the brain that continues to support brain function throughout our lives. Just one egg contains 100 mg of brain-boosting choline.
2 ripe fresh tomatoes, half and slice thinly
2 scallions, green parts only, slice thinly
4 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive or avocados oil
Yields: 4 serving
Calories: 179 calories
Fats: 15.6 gm
Protein: 7 gm
Carbohydrates: 3 gm
© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.