Updated: Nov 5, 2018
It happens every year right, you wake up to the smell of that buttery herb roasted bird. For some this is a symbol of one of the biggest meals we will have in one sitting this year, for others the Tofurkey just doesn't create the same nostalgic memories (or smells...).
It's ok though we kind of write this day off as a loss in the health category anyway as we call dibs on each pie and begin to gorge ourselves with food.
If that Turkey didn't make us so tired we might even make it outside to play a game of touch football with our cousins. What if I told you it wasn't the Turkey that was making you sleepy? As a chef I believe my calling is to help demystify food and help us build a better relationship with it. Once we start understanding what we are consuming then I think it becomes easier to see the reason why.
So the Turkey has Tryptophan right? Well kind of, I mean it does but Tryptophan alone from Turkey will not make you sleepy, no matter how much you eat. On a list of the top foods that have Tryptophan Turkey is fifth behind nuts, seeds and cheeses. Even still how many of us are emptying the nut bowl around the holiday?
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that serves several important purposes, like nitrogen balance in adults and growth in infants. It also creates niacin, which is essential in creating the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Boom there it is this essential amino acid gets converted in the brain cells into serotonin, this happens with the help of insulin which is spiked when you eat.... CARBOHYDRATES!
It's the combination of carbs with your Turkey, nuts + cheese that enables the Tryptophan to even enter the cells in the first place. Without the insulin Tryptophan would never be able to enter the cells to begin it's conversion into serotonin and then onto melatonin which is what actually puts you to sleep!
The poor Turkey has been getting the blame this whole time when in fact its the stuffing, mashed potatoes and bread at the holiday table that is inducing our Thanksgiving slumber.
If you're looking to eat a healthier dinner and stay up for the games this year, eat plenty of protein and fats while enjoying a cup of black coffee in between to keep you going. Just beware that even though this is the one time a year you've called dibs on a slice of each pie that they are the reason you find yourself stuck on the couch instead of enjoying your time with the family.
For more fun food facts and tips visit www.chefjoshuaingraham.com
In good cooking,