Thursday, November 24, 2016

Does eating turkey really make you feel sleepy?

It is one of the most persistent Thanksgiving myths: the turkey that you ingest during your Thanksgiving dinner is the reason why you feel so sleepy afterwards. This myth is so popular that it has even appeared (and gets further perpetuated) in television shows like Seinfeld.

The reason given is that turkey meat contains tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to produce serotonin, which in turn leads to the production of melatonin, which helps you sleep.

It all sounds so logical and scientific, but the truth is, turkey actually doesn’t have any more tryptophan than other poultry like chicken (it actually has slightly less).

In fact, ounce for ounce, cheese actually has more tryptophan than turkey does, yet it doesn’t get the same reputation that turkey does for causing sleepiness. (Instead, cheese get blamed for giving you nightmares, but that is another story altogether)

The real culprit is the stuffing, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and other carbohydrate-heavy sides, along with the alcohol you drink, which makes you sleepy.

Consuming carbohydrates triggers the release of insulin, which removes most of the amino acids in your bloodstream except tryptophan. This allows tryptophan to make its way to your brain to eventually produce the sleep-inducing melatonin.

So next time you feel sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal, don’t blame your turkey; blame the alcohol and the sides that you eat along with it.

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