• Sara Thompson

The truth about Turkeys


By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise


With Thanksgiving coming in the next week, we often also think about the post feast nap many of us take. Many have attributed the post meal sleepiness to the amino acid, tryptophan, found in turkeys. While it is true that tryptophan is found in turkey meat, it may not the reason you feel tired after Thanksgiving.


Amino acids are the building blocks for protein in our bodies, and this includes tryptophan. We are not able to naturally create it in our bodies and are required to obtain it from our diets. All amino acids have their own function and importance, but tryptophan helps to create other compound in our bodies. Tryptophan is a biochemical precursor to serotonin, which then creates melatonin, which are some of the “feel good” brain chemicals. Tryptophan also helps with the creating of niacin, which is a variety of vitamin B.


Tryptophan is often blamed for our post-Thanksgiving meal feelings of sleepiness and naps. Even though tryptophan is found in turkey meat, it does not have more than other foods that have tryptophan in it. Other foods that contain tryptophan include other poultry meat, such as chicken. It can also be found in some types of fish, such as cod and salmon. It is also found in some dairy products such as milk, cheeses, and yogurts. There are many foods that contain tryptophan other than turkey, and some that contain much more than turkeys, so what is causing our sleepiness?


During Thanksgiving we feast on not only turkey, but a number of sides and desserts as well. The cause of our sleepy state after our meal is due to the sheer amount of food we ate. Many eat larger portions than normal, and food high in carbohydrates. The kinds of foods we eat at Thanksgiving, and the larger sizes take a long time to digest. The opposite of “fight or flight” is “rest and digest”, so after eating a large meal our body will want to rest so it can dedicate blood vessels to digestions rather than to our limps for moving. Therefore, the reason we feel tired after Thanksgiving is not completely to blame on the turkey, but the whole meal and just our natural need to rest and digest it.

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