Does Turkey Make You Tired? The Truth About Turkey and TryptophanThis Thanksgiving, why not give thanks for brain health at any age? One way to literally bring brain health to the table is to cook Thanksgiving dishes that feature brain healthy nutrients, and share the benefits with your friends and family. Let’s take a look at all the brain benefits the foods on your Thanksgiving table have to offer.

The leafy green vegetables in your spinach salad, asparagus, or side of cooked greens is packed with folic acid, which has been shown to improve cognitive function. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, and pumpkin are all rich sources of complex carbohydrates that provide a steady supply of energy to your brain, making you feel sharper. The pecans in that pie? A solid source of brain-boosting Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to keep Alzheimer’s and dementia at bay. Winter squash also boasts Omega-3s. Finally, feel free to treat yourself to a glass of red wine- resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, has shown anti-aging benefits for the brain as well.

Talking turkey- you may have heard that eating turkey produces a sleep-inducing chemical called tryptophan, which is why you feel tired and lazy after your Thanksgiving feast. It’s time to debunk that myth once and for all. It’s true that the amino acid tryptophan induces serotonin production, which can make you calm, relaxed, and sleepy. However, turkey contains only a very small amount of tryptophan- about the same amount as other protein sources. The likely culprit of your Thanksgiving torpor? Overeating. As long as you don’t overeat, the lean protein found in turkey actually helps your brain produce norepinephrine and dopamine, neurochemicals that promote brain alertness and keep you energized.

You can read more in depth about the tryptophan myth, and Dr. Simon Young’s research on tryptophan, in this article from Psychology Today.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Posit Science!